Text size

Last week the police struck again. No, not at organized crime, and not at rampaging drivers on the roads, and not at the car thieves and burglars. It chose to once again attack public morale and its sense of confidence and security.

Spokesmen from the police, hiding behind the title "senior officials," said that executing the disengagement plan will make it difficult for the police to operate against terrorism. Thus, without realizing it, the police positions itself as one of those elements that is suggesting to the public that it choose between withdrawing from Gush Katif and northern Gaza, and defending against acts of terror.

The message being delivered by the police is consistent: From the moment it was decided that the police must play an active role in the evacuation of settlements, the top command has been displaying aversion to the mission. Already in September, Police Chief Moshe Karadi announced that the police would find it difficult to deal with both the evacuation of settlers and the mass demonstrations expected to accompany the disengagement operation. The chief was not ashamed to say in the government cabinet that he would prefer the police be used for their routine operations inside the Green Line rather than sending them to clash with settlers.

Three months later, Karadi explicitly warned the government that the evacuation operation could fail because of the anticipated opposition from tens of thousands of settlers and their supporters. He reckoned that the withdrawal from Gush Katif will be more difficult than the withdrawal from Yamit, and reminded the ministers that a concentrated effort on the evacuation would reduce the police's ability to provide its usual services to the public.

The general staff was not surprised by Karadi's fighting spirit. Although he remembered to declare that the police would do everything to fulfill their mission, and even though he did not forget to say that what's being tested is the very ability of the government to apply its authority, there were those around Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon who said that the police were not eager for the clash with the settlers, and that the brunt of the evacuation would fall on the army.

The whining has not stopped. Every few days the public is bombarded with new warnings from the police command's direction about the lawlessness that will break out in the country, as a result of the order the police have received: to be at the front lines in the struggle with the settlers. Senior officers in the police feed the media with chilling assessments about the drop in the level of security that will take place because of the diversion of resources to Gush Katif.

"Daily operations will be badly hurt," said a senior police officer to Haaretz on January 18. "Starting in May, there will be a lot fewer police on the streets," said other police sources in the same news item. On January 30, a senior officer offered this forecast to the press: "Nobody yet knows what will really happen in July, but as things appear now, it won't be good."

Sometimes there is political logic in sowing such choleric outlooks: State authorities, struggling for increased budgets, are used to exposing the backyards of the services they provide to increase the pressure on the treasury to meet their financial demands. It's how city halls highlight their bleak situations when they want an increase in their welfare budgets, and that's why the Health Ministry shows off the shortages of hospital beds when it struggles against efficiency programs and cutbacks initiated by the treasury. It is possible that the police behavior can be explained in a similar context: It wants more resources allocated so it can implement the evacuation.

Even if that is the real motive for the feeble leadership they are displaying, those in the police command should understand that they are not conducting their media campaign very wisely. They are perceived not as sophisticated civil servants, seeking to strike while the iron is hot to increase their budgets, but as feeble commanders afraid of the mission they've been assigned.