Israel said goodbye on Sunday to one of its rich and famous without even shedding a tear.
The extradition of underworld kingpin and the Israel Police's Public Enemy No. 1 Ze'ev Rosenstein has been hailed as possibly the force's greatest achievement in recent years, if not in its entire history.
But, while Rosenstein might be behind bars and out of operation, he is far from yesterday's news. He plans to fight for his release in a Miami court and has hired the services of famous criminal defense attorney Roy Black to plead his case. Even if he is convicted, he still has the chance to return to Israel and serve out his time behind Israeli and not US bars.
The bigger question yet to be asked is what Rosenstein's arrest has achieved. He might have been a big-time crook and Israel's homebred Al Capone, but ask any Israeli and they'll probably tell you that his arrest hasn't made the streets safer. While Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi claimed in January that the overall level of crime had decreased, in reality innocent people are still murdered for no reason and local crime bosses are still firing missiles at each other in the middle of residential neighborhoods.
Take Netanya crime boss Assi Abutbol as an example. He has for years managed to avoid indictment despite heavy allegations against him and numerous attempts on his life by rival criminals. At the beginning of the month, police found a LAW anti-tank rocket next to his home in an upscale part of Netanya. At the end of December, a LAW landed on the street in front of Abutbol's home as he pulled into an underground parking lot, and an attempt was also made on his life in August 2004.
The police also have no illusions and, while they should take pride in Rosenstein's arrest, they admit that they still have a lot of work ahead of them. "In crime," Tel Aviv Police chief Cmdr. David Zur told The Jerusalem Post after Rosenstein's appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court, "there is never a vacuum."
Rosenstein's arrest, the police claim, has weakened the local criminal infrastructure. If anything, it has also caused other crime bosses to become more cautious since, while they might succeed in skipping arrest at home, there is now a bigger player to watch out for - the United States.
But police have also noted that, while Israeli criminals will probably fight over control of what is left over from Rosenstein's crime business, his heir apparent is the Abergil crime family from Lod - an organization that has led a deadly battle against the jailed underworld figure over the past several years.
So, with crime expected to continue rising and crime bosses to keep on traveling with bodyguards and in armored cars to protect them from drive-by shootings and missiles, Israelis shouldn't forget Ze'ev Rosenstein. While today we are saying goodbye, tomorrow is a whole new day.
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