During an Israel Bar Association (IBA) conference, Alsheikh told listeners that it was “natural” for police to suspect someone of Ethiopian descent more than somebody from a different ethnic background.
However, it is not yet clear whether anybody will actually show up to the meeting in light of Alsheikh’s persistent refusal to apologize for his remarks. Indeed, a large number of those asked to attend have already declined the invitation.
“I don’t see the point in meeting with the police commissioner until he understands the consequences of his words. I am one of the people who think that he doesn’t need to be fired but he tarnished us all with the same brush,” said former Yesh Atid MK Pnina Tamano-Shata.
“The commissioner has to understand that we are not new immigrants and it is time to change the discourse,” she added.
One person who has agreed to attend the reconciliation meeting is Fantun Asfa-Duyet, the director of the NGO Tebeka, whose mission statement is ‘Advocacy for Equality and Justice for Ethiopian-Israelis.’
“I asked the police commissioner to apologize to the community during a personal conversation that he had with me and I told him that if he says sorry then the story will be put behind us. But instead of doing so, the commissioner said to me that his words had been taken out of context,” said Asfa-Duyet.
Alsheikh did undertake efforts to minimize the damage caused by his words by calling a number of activists from the Ethiopian community to clarify his words. However, remained adamant that no apology would be forthcoming.
“I do not intend to say sorry. Indeed, the things that I said and the style in which they were said were perhaps not the best but I feel that I am being ambushed,” he is reported to have said. “I am not in a depression but I believe that the injustice needs to be fixed for the community and we are doing this.”
An individual close to Alsheikh came to his defense Wednesday night: “It seems to me that someone was looking to cause trouble for the commissioner at the IBA conference and tried to cause a storm,” he said.
Following Alsheikh’s comments, Ethiopians demonstrated outside the home of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan who immediately signalled his support for the police chief. “The police commissioner did not justify the phenomenon of ‘over-policing’ against Israelis. He has done the exact opposite and boldly stated that there is a problem and the police is working to fix it.”