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On the wall of Moshe Karadi's office in the Be'er Sheva headquarters of the police's Southern District, there is a picture of his late father who retired from the police a low-ranking and embittered officer who warned his son that a wise man would not join the force. Karadi, after completing his army service as a company commander, decided to follow this advice. But somehow, despite his decision, he wound up joining the Border Police in order to finance his education. Soon he found himself advancing from post to post, and then he switched to the regular police, until suddenly he found himself named the next police commissioner.

Chance has always played a large role in Karadi's climb to the top, though he also understands that it is wise to give chance a helping hand. In many ways, he was simply in the right place at the right time - as, for instance, when Public Security Minister Hanegbi decided on principle to choose the next commissioner from Karadi's generation, the officers aged 44 to 49, rather than from among the older officers of equivalent rank. Indeed, Karadi's age, 44, may have worked to his advantage even among this group: The fact that he is three years younger than Hanegbi eliminates the difficulties that sometimes arise when a veteran officer must answer to a minister younger than himself.

Similarly, it was chance that Karadi reached his present post as Southern District commander. Five years ago, he received a promotion that also distanced him from the public eye: commander of the Border Police's training base. But by chance, he was visited there by someone who was impressed with the young commander's work in organizing activities for disadvantaged youth from the surrounding area. The visitor was then public security minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, and he promoted Karadi into the ranks of the police's major generals, as head of human resources.

During the current round of appointments, Karadi had only aspired to be promoted to commander of the Tel Aviv District. When Hanegbi suggested the commissioner's job, he was stunned. He requested time to think it over, returned an affirmative answer, and then heard nothing - until the telephone rang Tuesday night at 10:30 P.M.

Until two weeks ago, Hanegbi had been planning to appoint one of the four older major generals, but he finally decided to skip this generation entirely and move on to Karadi's generation. Now, he and Karadi want to fill these four slots with four other members of Karadi's generation: Shahar Ayalon, commander of the Samaria and Judea District; Border Police Commander David Tzur; Ilan Franco, head of the intelligence division; and Dudi Cohen, chief of the operations branch.

The division of labor between Hanegbi and Karadi is clear: Hanegbi will try to get the police more funding, while Karadi will cut costs - including by eliminating five major generals' positions by merging divisions.

But Karadi's big test will be whether he can assert control over the other major generals, who might resent the young colleague who leapfrogged over them. Helping him in this will be the impressive learning abilities and capacity to adjust to new circumstances that he has demonstrated in his previous jobs.

One veteran but fairly junior officer expressed delight at Karadi's appointment, saying that as head of human resources, Karadi genuinely looked out for his policemen's well-being and morale. What remains to be seen is whether a commissioner who is good for his men will necessarily be good for the police - or whether a commissioner who is good for the police will necessarily be good for the country.