The Zeiler Commission - an earthquake, but on what scale?

The shockwaves will only start emanating from Mount Scopus at noon. But where they go from there?

karadi pondering 298.88 (photo credit: Ori Porat)
karadi pondering 298.88
(photo credit: Ori Porat)
By Sunday afternoon, the great shuffle will begin. Once the Zeiler Commission releases its long-anticipated findings, the earth will tremble, radiating from the conference room at Mount Scopus's Regency Hotel, the scene of the second round of testimony. The ripples will certainly extend down the hill to National Police Headquarters, two blocks away. But how much further? It seems almost certain that there will be no "personal" recommendations against the best-known resident of the headquarters' fifth floor, Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi. On Friday, standing meters from the Western Wall, the police chief seemed in his element, joking with Jerusalem District chief Ilan Franco, another member of the top brass who was thought to be between the panel's crosshairs. Franco, who is far from the center of the commission's inquiry, is taking the whole situation harder. He has expressed deep disappointment with the committee's proceedings and, in particular, with the degree of blame laid at his door. It is improbable that the commission - which has said that neither commander's behavior constituted criminal infractions - will directly recommend their dismissal. If anyone will bear the brunt of such a recommendation, it will be the officers one notch down, the long line of assistant commanders whose bickering, infighting, and - it turns out - occasional incompetence, revealed in the hearings, have put the latest and worst of a series of black eyes on the face of the police. The real earthquake, however, will not come as a result of three or four dismissals. And as in any seismic event, it is the secondary quake, the aftershock that will spread out from the Internal Security Ministry, that could bring the house of cards, or in this case, the police headquarters, tumbling down. Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter has made it clear since he took office almost a year ago that he has very little patience for the good ol' boy school of administration. He has criticized the police for poor handling of decisions on manpower and promotions, as well as for its unsatisfactory performance in the Benny Sela escape. He has railed against the low level of trust in the law enforcement community and has - at least in his policy statements - emphasized his determination to restore public faith in the police. The commission's report is expected to offer sharp criticism of police procedures in general, citing glaring holes in management, organization and standards for promotion. And the responsibility for fixing it will rest in the hands of the internal security minister, who sets policy and makes and reviews nominations for the upper echelons of the force. Dichter will ultimately decide what kind of an earthquake this will be - whether the recommendations will be swept under the carpet, or whether he will take a tough reformist stance in a bid to show the public that the police can be restored to a place of pride. And that is where the danger lies for the likes of Karadi and Franco. Karadi is set to finish his term of office this summer, and Franco had been considered a rising star and was on the short list of commanders who might be set to fill his shoes. But if the commission recommends, for instance, that his promotion be frozen, and he misses this round of nominations for the top position, his career could be over. And as for the top cop himself, the possibility still remains that Dichter could hurry him out early as a sacrifice to the public's desire for what former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz calls "the lobbing off of heads." The Zeiler Commission's shockwaves will only start emanating from the Regency's conference room at noon. But where they go from there, and how quickly and how destructively they will spread, will take hours and days, and maybe even weeks, to determine.•