Genot 298.88 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Our much-battered police force was again shaken on Monday when its designated inspector-general, Ya'acov Genot, belatedly declined his nomination. Genot should have never accepted it in the first place and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter should have never made it. Yet unfortunately it is not a case of better-late-than-never and back-to-business-as-usual.
The episode, more than a month long, in which Dichter presented Genot as his ideal candidate has wrought real damage of the sort that cannot be wiped away instantly.
Genot only bowed out after leaks from the three-man Advisory Committee on Civil Service Appointments indicated he would not be approved. The panel's chairman, former Supreme Court justice Ya'acov Turkel, and member Shmuel Hollander (the civil service commissioner) were reported as being emphatically opposed to the appointment of a man who only narrowly escaped conviction for bribery.
In 1996, two of three Supreme Court justices acquitted Genot for insufficient evidence but unequivocally reprimanded him. As ex-justice Yitzhak Zamir recently explained, it was assumed that the stiff censure would preclude Genot from advancing to higher office.
Yet Genot went on to head the Prisons Service and was nominated to command the police. Undeniably he is a formidable mover and shaker who had reshaped the Prisons Service and might have been capable of overhauling the police. Nevertheless, the conspicuous blot on his record should have automatically disqualified Genot from heading a force in charge of making sure the rest of the populace behaves without blemish.
It took colossal insensitivity on Dichter's part to overlook the indisputable problem with the Genot nomination. The notion that Genot could be imposed on his subordinates and the public without a squawk, and indeed expect respect and support, demeans the citizenry. Dichter clearly took for granted the public's acquiescence to any decree - no matter how unreasonable.
Concomitantly, Dichter also managed to insult the police via the suggestion that no officer in the entire force could be found who is both competent and untarnished.
As soon as outgoing Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi was admonished by the Zeiler Commission and resigned, Dichter declared that the next police chief would not come from within its ranks.
Though it is certainly legitimate to consider candidates from outside the police force for the top job, Dichter chose to do so in a way that expressed blanket no-confidence in the entire police hierarchy. The unavoidable implication was that the police is irredeemable and perhaps contaminated to the core.
Dichter thus boxed himself into a very tight corner. He has no contingency candidate, has managed to ruffle the feathers of the entire police upper echelon, and wherever he turns, either in or out of the force, he will be earning derision.
Even Karadi, it so appears, has the last laugh on him. Dichter was out to shorten Karadi's tenure (which concludes on May 1) and replace him forthwith. Without an alternative candidate, however, Karadi has already offered to "stay on as long as it takes."
The other problem with ruling out the entire police hierarchy is that there are not many top-notch outsiders lining up for the job. Genot, it transpires, wasn't Dichter's first choice, despite the effusive praise the minister heaped on him. Instead, all other "outsiders" Dichter sought to recruit turned him down.
The police has not known a calm interlude for a long while. The flight and clumsy recapture of the country's most notorious serial rapist and the rampant lawlessness in the South were merely some of the ignominies that sullied its image, even before the Zeiler thrashing.
Surely, Dichter is right that reform is necessary. But so is some semblance of self-esteem for a force with important accomplishments, that works long, stressful hours for little pay and great risks. Some continuity, not to mention larger budgets to put more police on our streets, might be helpful. Dichter, a former Shin Bet chief who has made an immense contribution to Israel's security, but a rookie minister, has superfluously made a bad situation worse.