Pen Ultimate / Come Lie With Me

If we want to find people to fill public service posts, we'll have to lower our standards.

These are tough times. I barely recovered after following the race for the Israel Defense Force's chief-of-staff baton, and now I am biting my nails over who will be appointed the new police commissioner, following the findings of the Zeiler Commission. Not only that: The post of Israel Tax Authority director general is up for grabs, too.

Unlike the post of IDF chief of staff, which seemed to have been coveted - at least one high-ranking officer was unhappy for not having been chosen for it - the police commissioner's job does not seem to be so attractive. On the contrary: According to the minister of public security, he offered the post to five or six candidates of his choice and each one of them answered: "Thanks, but no thanks." The minister did, however, claim that if the one who does want the job (but may not get it) does not actually get it in the end, he does have yet another candidate.

It seems indeed like the times described in the prophecies of Isaiah (Chapter 3) when, in the whole of Jerusalem, no one is able to find "the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge and the prudent and the ancient, the captain of fifty and the honorable man and the counselor and the cunning artificer and the eloquent orator." And when "children be their princes and babes shall rule over them and the people shall be oppressed, every one by another and every one by his neighbor; the child will behave himself proudly against the ancient and the base against the honorable."

One can understand why there are no takers for the chief-of-police post. The police commissioner has to deal with criminals who are represented by lawyers, and the divisions he commands are made of, well, policemen, with all due respect. And they are not always a pleasant lot, as anyone who has received a speeding ticket, or God forbid was held for interrogation, can attest.

According to the prophecy of Isaiah, anyone who is wearing clothes can be taken by another person and be told "thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thine hand."

We have not reached such a stage yet, but if we accept the suggestions of Justice Vardi Zeiler, in his interview with Haaretz Magazine ("Total filth," February 23), if we want to find people to fill the open posts in public service, we will have to lower our standards with respect to honesty.

Thus said the honorable justice: "If anyone wants to find a prayer shawl that is entirely pure blue, he won't succeed, not even in the inanimate world, and certainly not in the living world." He even quoted the sages (Tractate Yoma): "A man must not be made the head of a congregation unless he has a whole heap of reptiles at his back, in order that, if he should become haughty, people should be able to say to him: look around, behind your back."

This is all very well, but one should remember that the police force is hardly a "congregation," and that the sages specified "a heap," and not a mountain, "at his back" and not in his closet, and also "reptiles," not skeletons.

Furthermore, according to Judge Zeiler, we should look at the whole issue with the proper perspective. "I don't know anyone," he says, "who's never done something wrong or something foolish or lied to his wife."

Spousal misdemeanor

One is tempted to ask why he does not even consider the possibility of a woman for the post in question, and one is even more tempted to ask His Honor - considering the one example of a misdeed that he quotes - whether he is sending some sort of message to his own wife.

Of course, lying to a wife is not a crime. Even in the Ten Commandments it does not say "Thou shalt not lie" - although committing adultery and coveting the neighbor's wife does entail lying if one is married, and is generally considered to be a misdemeanor, even if a former U.S. president got away with it, at least for a little while.

Zeiler does say he is speaking theoretically, and that he does not know all the details of Yaakov Ganot's career, and then he quotes the sages again, to wit: "The judge is to be concerned only with what he actually sees with his own eyes." Which brings to mind another quote from the sages: "The evil impulse only bears sway over what a person sees with his own eyes." A man's impulse is evil from his youth.

What does make me wonder are Judge Zeiler's criteria concerning a candidate's aptitude for public service. When asked why his commission was so harsh concerning Ganot and yet so lenient toward State Prosecutor Eran Shendar, he answers: "When people didn't do something out of corruption or upon their own initiative but were dragged into it, and when there's a human explanation for their failure, there is no malice involved. Then it's about being dragged into an act of stupidity."

Well, I don't know about that. Is it not better to appoint someone with a blemished past (even if he claims that the stains on his record have paled over the years) and be aware that, being human, he has strayed once already - which will make him and us be wary - than to appoint someone who was already dragged once into an act of stupidity by, well, his own stupidity? Not that I recommend appointing police commissioner with a shady past, but if that is the only choice, I would prefer the lesser of two evils.

There is one point I would like to make clear, having said all this: I do not want to be the police commissioner. When you assume that post, you cannot even plunge with impunity into a jacuzzi, for fear of someone saying "J'accuse." And the same goes for director general of the Tax Authority. You'll have to manage without me. And this time no regrets and no offense will be taken for not having been considered.