'Israel now seen as country that fights crime'

The decision to extradite alleged underworld kingpin Ze'ev Rosenstein was crucial for maintaining high-quality professional relations with US law enforcement authorities, Tel Aviv Police chief Cmdr. David Zur told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday following the Supreme Court's decision. "With this decision we have restored legitimacy to Israel as a country that fights crime," he said. "Had we not extradited him, we would have soured our relationship with the United States." Rosenstein's extradition also teaches criminals who have illegal overseas operations a far more important lesson, Zur added. "We have improved our level of deterrence," he said. "Criminals who operate outside the country now know that we have an outstretched arm that can reach them anywhere they commit a crime." However, "in crime there is never a vacuum, and when one criminal is arrested his place gets filled very quickly," he said. Until his arrest last year, Rosenstein was referred to by police as Public Enemy No. 1 and had been in their sights for years until they finally succeeded in catching him on international drug charges with the assistance of the US Drug Enforcement Agency. Rosenstein's organization - one of the largest and most notorious in Israel - has severely deteriorated since his arrest in November 2004, Zur said. What was once a prosperous organization, he said, has now become a minor player in the criminal world, with several of Rosenstein's men still watching over and directing only some of what is left of the operations. "The Rosenstein organization was basically dominated by him and by him alone," the Tel Aviv police chief said. "There wasn't a classic hierarchy there like in other organizations which is made up of levels of soldiers. It wasn't built that way, and in reality he was everything." Police said the natural heir to Rosenstein's organization was the Abergil crime family from Lod, an organization that has led a deadly battle against the jailed underworld figure for the past several years.