An unacceptable gap
The public's natural wish is to secure a direct correlation, within a reasonable amount of time, between the calamity brought on the country and the point the shortcomings are repaired - with those responsible paying the price. This wish is not being fulfilled.
Fourteen months passed between the establishment of the Agranat Commission, which examined the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces and government during the Yom Kippur War, and the release of its final report. The Israeli public accepted the prolonging of the investigation because three months after the commission began its work, it issued an interim report with its main findings, including severe conclusions about a number of army officers, first and foremost the chief of staff. The time required between the terrible shortcomings exposed by the war, which needed fixing, and the feeling that the solutions had been found, appeared to be reasonable to the public.
By comparison, when the Winograd Committee announces that its work may be prolonged (according to some estimates, possibly as long as to the first half of 2008), there is an unacceptable gap between the committee's expectations and those of the public. A gap is also created by the contradiction evident in the serious conclusions of the committee's interim report, which was released in late April, and its reluctance to recommend that the relevant actors resign their posts.
The various law enforcement authorities, including the inquiry committees appointed by the government, have still not internalized the fact that they are operating in an environment swarming with media. Unlike November 1973, the judges and officials in the State Attorney's Office are being closely followed by reporters. When a contradiction emerges between the messages of the legal experts who are working in the state's name, and the final results of their deliberations, the public feels frustrated. The laymen are filled with the suspicion that justice has not been done. This also occurs when there is an unacceptably long gap between the events for which an investigation is initiated, and the point at which it is completed.
When the Winograd Committee wrote in its interim report that "the personal responsibility of the prime minister to the decision-making processes ... is central," it gave a clear impression about what it thought of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's conduct and his ability to fulfill his role. On the other hand, its reluctance to spell out its conclusions has caused confusion among the public.
The confusion has only intensified now that the committee announced that due to legal procedures it will grant the subjects of its final report a chance to defend themselves (a step the committee ignored before the release of its interim report), and that it cannot estimate when it will publish its final report. The public's natural wish is to secure a direct correlation, within a reasonable amount of time, between the calamity brought on the country and the point the shortcomings are repaired - with those responsible paying the price. This wish is not being fulfilled.
This is precisely what is also taking place in the legal proceedings against Moshe Katsav: The attorney general created certain expectations in his public statements against the former president, but did not carry them out for legal considerations. Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch may find herself in a similar dilemma: The messages she sent out during the deliberations on the petitions against the Katsav plea bargain, which were heard in every household in the country, may stand in complete contradiction to the High Court's final ruling, which will be based on legal arguments.
Just like Judge Eliyahu Winograd and his colleagues on the panel, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and Beinisch are not sensitive enough about the way the general public perceives their statements. The common citizen understands that Mazuz considers Katsav a serial sex offender, so it is difficult for him to come to terms with the fact that the former president is not being tried for his actions. The common citizen understands from Justice Beinisch's statements that she is utterly dissatisfied with Katsav's plea bargain. It will be very difficult for that citizen to comprehend a High Court decision that runs contrary to her dissatisfaction.
The result is that there is a growing erosion of public trust in the organs of the state, including those involved with law enforcement. This is reflected in current surveys. From such a point, the road to apathy among the people is short.
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