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Israel Police looks to cast global net of cooperation in post-COVID world

CM 15/04/2021

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 As Israel and the world emerge from the shadows of coronavirus, people are resurfacing from lockdowns and closures, relationships are being reformed and things are attempting to get back to normal.

And nowhere is this much truer than inside Israel Police’s International Cooperation Unit, part of the Deputy Commissioner’s Bureau.
A unit whose responsibility is to lead Israel Police’s strategy in the international field has perhaps been hit harder than others by the restrictions in place due to coronavirus.
“If I speak in general on the concept of cooperation, we are speaking about visits, delegations, face-to-face meetings. That was the world of the unit until coronavirus,” Cmdr. Eliaz Haliva, head of the International Cooperation Unit, said. “Since COVID-19, the world changed completely, and we had to change, too. These days we have online forums, online conversations through various platforms, online meetings and conferences. We are hopeful that later this year we can return to our face-to-face meetings whilst also continuing online.”
Things are slowly rejuvenating, however. Last Tuesday, for example, a request was received from Jonathan Shrier, the chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy, to meet with Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yaakov “Kobi” Shabtai.
“[Shrier] wanted to meet with the police commissioner and wanted to know the vision of the commissioner,” Haliva said, “things like how we deal with COVID-19, which particularly interested him, how the commissioner is leading the police in dealing with a multicultural society. It was an excellent and productive meeting.”
Despite its size and small population, Israel is famous throughout the world in punching above its weight. In the fields of intelligence operations, science, medicine and technology, Israeli knowledge is in much demand, and the same can be said of the expertise of the Israel Police. Just as Shrier may have been particularly interested in COVID-19, agencies and organizations from every corner of the globe want to learn something from the Israel Police, and it is the International Cooperation Unit’s job to coordinate and implement that learning.

“The Israel Police are in high demand. There are dozens if not hundreds of requests from various law enforcement agencies worldwide. Many officers and commissioners want to come to meet their Israeli counterparts and see how Israel Police work, and there are many areas where we learn from the rest of the world, but we also teach the rest of the world,” Haliva explained.
“We are held in high regard in certain areas, so people want to come and work with us – for example, counterterrorism units, such as the Yamam, and the field of counterterrorism; everybody wants to come and see firsthand how we work in counterterrorism. The same with how we deal with diversity in the community and minorities. For example, we have a Muslim sector, an ultra-Orthodox sector, and they want to see how the police work in these fields.
“Counter-sabotage is a field where Israel leads the way, or the field of forensics or cyber – these are all in high demand, and the same with our [National] Police Academy. Our Police Academy is top level, one of the best in the world. It’s a magnet, where people want to come and learn.”
One example is the joint exercises that are carried out between Israeli special forces and their foreign counterparts. Whether joint training exercises between the Counterterrorist Unit and its European and American counterparts, aviation units or the cyber and bomb disposal squads, the International Cooperation Unit is responsible for organizing, designing and carrying out the program.
Before COVID-19 hit, Haliva confirmed to The Jerusalem Post, there were over 300 collaborations between Israel Police and their counterparts throughout the world annually.
In the day-to-day running of the unit, the structure of the Israel Police force can aid its work. With an entire force consisting of fewer officers than the New York Police Department alone, simplicity here is the key.
“What is unique here in Israel is that there is one national Israeli police force,” Micky Rosenfeld, superintendent of the International Cooperation Unit, explained. “In the UK, for example, there is the Metropolitan Police, West Yorkshire Police, etc. Here, the structure is Public Security Ministry, then commissioner, then deputy commissioner, then the departments, and then the wide range of units. That is the backbone of Israel Police.”
“Why is it unique here?” asked Haliva. “When you work with the Americans, they have around 18,000 security agencies; the same with Australians, the British, the Germans. Israel Police is the one national police force, [with] one commissioner, one deputy commissioner and one unit for international cooperation.”
EFFICIENCY IS also the name of the game for Israel Police’s international police attachés based around the world. These representatives are responsible for the implementation of the Israel Police’s strategy in many countries and, in the case of Africa, the entire continent.
For Israel Police there are 14 representatives throughout the whole world. Whether in Washington, LA, Bogota, in Thailand or working with international agencies such as Europol or Interpol, these representatives are the eyes and ears of Israel Police and the Public Security Ministry on the global stage.
“They serve the interests of Israel Police throughout the world on an operational level – for example, the extradition of Malka Leifer – on focused matters, legal investigations, extradition agreements, everything related to an operation that is going on,” Haliva explained. “With regard to the rest of the strategy – leadership, cooperation, exchanging of information, police academies – that is the broader strategy that they carry out.”
These 14 police attachés, on an operational and command level, work under the Investigations and Intelligence Division. The rest of the police’s strategy, such as interbody cooperation, joint operations or training, falls under the auspices of the International Cooperation Unit.
These attachés are responsible for carrying out all that’s necessary for fulfilling Israel Police’s global strategy. They carry out operations, deal with criminals and, if need be, coordinate arrests with overseas international agencies. If there is an extradition treaty, the attaché carries out the extradition.
“These are the boots on the ground,” Haliva said.
“On the other hand, in the evening he can don a different cap and also acts as a diplomatic representative for Israel Police and can arrange meetings between different bodies or arrange training between forces,” Haliva said. It is nuanced work.
“These men are serious officers who do an important job,” Haliva stated, and he speaks from experience. Having spent over 26 years in the Israel Police, he served four years as the police attaché in Thailand and was responsible for the whole Southeast Asia region. It is unsurprising to learn that out of a force of 31,000 officers, to fulfill the role of a foreign attaché is a highly sought-after position.
AND WHAT of the future? Working with known, close friends is one thing, but what can be expected of Israel’s newfound friendships with its neighbors, the UAE, Bahrain, since the signing of the Abraham Accords?
Unlike the many bodies and delegations that have since set up shop in the Gulf nations, Israel Police have yet to reap the benefits of the Abraham Accords.
“We are, at the moment, waiting, because we are under the auspices of the Public Security Ministry. We are looking at the subjects we want to cooperate with them on; they are looking at the subjects they want to cooperate with us on. We are at the beginning of the joint conversation, to strengthen our platforms. That’s the situation at the moment. We are going to send a permanent attaché of the Israel Police to Abu Dhabi, to be responsible for the advancement of our joint cooperation.”
After over a year of disruptions and complications caused by the global pandemic, Haliva is looking forward to seeing the physical sides of international cooperation come back into full force.
But whether it be in person, online or over the phone, he says, the aim of the Israel Police is always “to serve and protect.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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