Police Blotter: Halt - Police!

When current commanders failed to tumble out of the police like dominos, the most immediate shock of the Zeiler earthquake was absorbed in a wait-and-see atmosphere.

Zeiler 298.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Zeiler 298.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It has been almost two weeks since the Zeiler Commission delivered its long-awaited report, and so far very little has happened. It may be the calm before the storm. Or it may be the first stage of the "big forget," in which recommendations for solutions are discussed and dragged out for months before they are simply put on the shelf to gather dust. Let's recap what has happened: On February 18, the Zeiler Commission convened a late-morning press conference to announce its findings. The commission, as you may recall, began with a probe into why the police took so long to investigate the murders of mobster Pinhas Buhbout and hired killer Tzahi Ben-Or. The investigation drifted to focus on the appointment of Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy, to allegations about organized crime "plants" in the police, and finally to the question of whether or not the appointment of Insp.-Gen Moshe Karadi himself was tainted by political considerations brought about by none other than the bete noire of Israeli politics, Omri Sharon. Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter announced that he would have a press conference at 7:30 p.m. that same day to offer his response to the highly critical report, in which the majority of commission members recommended that Karadi not have his term renewed. First, Dichter said, he would meet with top-ranking police officers to discuss the report's findings. But just before 5 p.m., Karadi's office announced that the police chief himself would be holding a press conference in less than an hour. Journalists rushed to the scene, set up cameras and began to prep audiences live for the fact that Karadi was probably about to resign. In a statesmanlike manner, he stepped to the podium just in time for the 6 p.m. news and, indeed, quit. Both the press corps and several officers in the halls of National Police Headquarters held back small smiles - it seemed that Karadi had managed to one-up his boss across the parking lot in the Internal Security Ministry. But, once again, at 7:30, the cameras were broadcasting live, and this time Dichter was on the podium. While Karadi had perhaps ruined what would have been the minister's bombshell statement, Dichter was not to be outdone. If not a full-blown bomb, he certainly had a few grenades up his sleeve. Not only was Karadi on the way out, Dichter said, but he had also decided to fire Cmdr. Benny Kaniak, the deputy inspector-general, who was not cited at all by the Zeiler report. As if that were not surprise enough, he announced that he had already made his selection for their replacements, and that Prisons Service Chief Warden Ya'acov Ganot (he changed it to Genot the next day) and Cmdr. Mickey Levy would be the next duo to lead the troubled police. But Dichter failed to explain away fraud allegations that haunted Genot from the early 1990s. The nomination was almost immediately contested, and Dichter's earthquake in the police force became tied up with a High Court hearing, which deferred into the Terkel Commission, but seemed to promise that if the appointment was approved, the court would hear Genot's opponents' petitions. Meanwhile, Karadi continued to function as police chief, not only upholding ceremonial obligations, but also attending conferences at which he was scheduled to speak about the Israel Police. And earlier this week, Karadi's people announced that the top cop would stay in his position until May 1, less than a dozen weeks short of the end of his regular term. After the appointment of Genot, journalists began to swirl around the pack of disappointed police commanders like sharks, trying to identify the defeated or disillusioned who would submit their resignations. But in the ensuing weeks, no official resignations were submitted - or at least made public. Commanders who leaked their intent to leave the force during the tumultuous morning after Karadi's resignation quickly faded back into the blue wall. INSTEAD, THE pack of commanders is waiting, some in the hope that Genot's appointment will not be approved and that Dichter will be forced to search for a new successor to Karadi. In the meantime, they - like Dichter, Genot and Karadi himself - have decided to keep their silence until they see how the cards fall in the Terkel Commission. When the current crop of commanders failed to tumble out of the police in a domino-like sequence, the most immediate shock of the Zeiler earthquake was absorbed in a wait-and-see atmosphere. Some in National Police Headquarters feel that this will give the commanders time to make better-considered choices - in other words, to wait out the months, or even years, of tumult and distrust. Although Genot is known as a doer, this latest rearrangement may be more a game of musical chairs than an earthquake. Genot, after all, is not really a police outsider at all - he only traded in his police uniform for the Prisons Service version in 2003, after filling a number of top positions in the police. And Dichter has already announced that the freshly-fired Kaniak will move into Genot's old office. Mickey Levy's current position as police envoy to the US will be taken by Lt.-Cmdr. Meir Bukovza, perhaps best known as the ranking officer in command of the evacuation of Amona. In any case, everything seems to be stalled for the time being. Which means that even this reduced earthquake will be a bit late getting under way, if it happens at all. In the meantime, the public will have to make do with the dramatic press conferences and resignations timed to make the evening news, rather than real change.