Zeiler 298.88 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The earthquake that was expected to shake the police following the release of the Zeiler Commission's report came quickly, as less than eight hours after it was published, Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi resigned as the head of the Israel Police.
Karadi spoke at a hastily arranged press conference at the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem hours after two out of three members of the Zeiler Commission recommended he should remain in his post until the end of his term, but that it would not be extended beyond August 2007. The panel's head, former Tel Aviv District Court judge Vardi Zeiler, offered a minority opinion that Karadi should be sent home immediately.
"Although the majority of committee members decided it would be appropriate that I continue in office until the end of my term, as befits someone who deeply cares about the organization, I must take into account that this might drag the police into a series of witch-hunts. Therefore, out of [a sense of] personal responsibility, I have decided to terminate my position as inspector general of the Israel Police," Karadi said.
He went on to say that the committee's conclusions regarding his personal conduct came as a surprise, adding, "This is a difficult time for me as well as for the police organization."
Less than two hours later, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter confirmed what many had already believed - that he had been planning Karadi's dismissal, and that the top cop's announcement had merely given him a head start on what was going to happen anyway.
If anyone thought Karadi had stolen the minister's thunder, Dichter quickly proved otherwise. "In order to stabilize the police establishment, I have decided to replace its leadership - the chief of police and the deputy chief of police," said Dichter during a press conference at the Internal Security Ministry, separated only by a parking lot from the police headquarters where Karadi had made his announcement.
The dismissal of Cmdr. Benny Kaniak, who was not mentioned in the Zeiler report, was unexpected.
Olmert, according to a statement put out by his office, phoned Karadi on Sunday night to express his appreciation for the job he has done over the years.
But the command shuffle at the top of the police ranks was not the only dramatic outcome of the commission's findings on Sunday. The panel, which was charged with reviewing the way police and prosecutors led a six-year investigation into the 1999 murder of underworld figure Pinhas Buhbout, delivered a series of damning condemnations against police officers and against the force in general.
Police believed that southern crime bosses Oded and Sharon Perinian hired former policeman Tzahi Ben-Or to murder Buhbout while the latter was recuperating from a previous attempt on his life. Ben-Or entered into negotiations to serve as a state's witness against the Perinians, but later fled the country and was murdered in Mexico in 2004.
A large part of the inquiry centered around the personality of Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy, a senior police officer in the Southern District, who was been accused of receiving bribes in exchange for aiding the Perinian family, and who was appointed to his position by Karadi, the Southern District commander at the time.
The commission also recommended that 25-year police veteran Jerusalem District head Cmdr. Ilan Franco not receive the position of chief of police in the coming round of nominations, a serious blow - but not necessarily a career ending one for a man whom Dichter said on Sunday night "is an excellent officer who does his work well and... whose future in the police is still open before him."
More seriously affected were Dep.-Cmdr. Avi Navon, whom the commission recommended be removed from his position, and Dep.-Cmdr Aharon Zargarov, who the panel said should be demoted. In his case, the commission also said the police should consider "opening appropriate proceedings against him" due to his decision to close the Buhbout murder case - an incident in which, the report said, the commission members had "the sense that Zargarov had lied to the District Attorney's Office."
But the harshest findings were reserved for Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy and Ch.-Supt. Ruby Gilboa, whom the report recommended should be immediately removed from the ranks of the Israel Police, possibly being be demoted first.
Zeiler said Sunday that while other officers had acted inappropriately due to "carelessness and negligence," Levy had acted inappropriately due to "forbidden motivations," namely his connections to the Perinian crime family.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.