A Stubborn Minister

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch's appointment of Yaakov Ganot as the director of his ministry demonstrates arrogance and lack of judgment.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch's appointment of Yaakov Ganot as the director of his ministry demonstrates arrogance and lack of judgment, regardless of how impressive the professional record of the candidate is.

The minister did not learn from the failure of the previous Public Security Minister, Avi Dichter, whose attempt to appoint Ganot as police commissioner met fierce opposition. Ganot withdrew his candidacy when it was made clear to him that the Turkel committee on approving senior appointments was going to disqualify him.

The recognition that a senior posting such as director general requires meeting not only professional qualifications, but should be considered reasonable and appropriate, stems from a ruling of the High Court of Justice. It is the ruling that nullified the government's decision to appoint Yossi Ginossar as director general of the Housing and Construction Ministry after he acknowledged tampering with evidence in the bus 300 affair.

In the 1993 ruling, Justice Aharon Barak laid down the principle that has guided rulings since then. According to the ruling, a person cannot serve in a senior post if he will have difficulty setting an example for his subordinates, serving as a moral authority and projecting "fairness, credibility, honesty and integrity" to the public.

Ganot's then-candidacy as police chief and current appointment as director general of the Public Security Ministry does not meet these criteria. Ganot was cleared in the Supreme Court in 1996 of receiving bribes, and was found not guilty of fraud and breach of trust by a majority of two judges to one.

Ganot was prosecuted for receiving favors when he served as deputy commander and commander of the northern district police. The favors were from the owner of a large contracting firm who wanted access and special treatment. The Supreme Court's clearing of Ganot of bribery charges was mainly based on the court's non-intervention in factual findings determined in the district court. The Supreme Court noted that it was possible that if it had determined the factual findings they would have been different.

The Supreme Court judges noted the words of district court Judge Gideon Ginat, according to which accepting the story of the defendants (Ganot and the contractor Subhi Tannous ) "requires stretching the tests of reasonableness and logic to the maximum."

According to the majority opinion of justices Eliezer Goldberg and Yitzhak Zamir, clearing Ganot of fraud and breach of trust was based on doubt that the cases discussed had crossed the boundary of criminal corruption, as distinct from public corruption. The minority judge, Yaakov Kedmi, a former senior police officer who was well acquainted with conditions in the police force, found that Ganot's behavior - allowing his contractor friend Tannous to hold a large party to mark his appointment as district commander - was criminal corruption and breach of trust.

The three judges viewed Ganot's behavior as improper on ethical and disciplinary grounds. It appears that the approach of the majority judges, who classified his behavior as improper solely on violations of disciplinary rules, does not correspond to the approach today, which has widened the boundaries of the breach of trust offense.

On the face of it, Ganot's behavior appears to fulfill the requirements for criminal prosecution, according to the 2004 Supreme Court decision in an additional hearing regarding Shimon Sheves, the former director-general of the prime minister's office.

The court, an expanded panel of judges, noted in that case that the higher the position of the office holder, the greater the tendency to classify an improper action by him as criminal breach of trust. This is relevant to Ganot's appointment.

His appointment as director-general of the Public Affairs Ministry, an influential leadership role that guides others regarding the limits of what is permitted and forbidden and affects policy, is unreasonable.

Ganot's clearance of criminal wrongdoing because of reasonable doubt makes him technically fit to serve as director general, but such an appointment does not meet the test of reasonableness according to the ethical criteria formulated in judicial rulings.

It is precisely the police force, which has gone through such serious upheaval, that needs clean appointments more than any other organization. Public trust in its leadership is a necessary condition for it to function.