Analysis / A Timely Beheading

Major General Moshe Mizrahi gave a lecture yesterday at the police staff and command college near Netanya, from where then-police chief Assaf Hefetz took him seven years ago to the criminal investigations department. While Mizrahi was lecturing to senior officers about the role of the department in a period of external pressures, he received an urgent message to meet with acting Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra in Jerusalem, before the latter left for Tel Aviv to participate in the Likud party elections.

Mizrahi knows Ezra well. They served together for a time in the territories, when Ezra was still in the Shin Bet security service, and were fairly fond of each other. This time, however, Ezra had an ax to grind, aided by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

Mizrahi replied that it was too difficult to rush to Jerusalem and so the two met half way, at the Messubim station instead. They asked the local commander to give them his office and sat down opposite one another. Ezra looked embarrassedly for something in his pocket, "like an old man looking for a candy for a kid before some indecent act," as one person put it. Then he took out a note and read the decision to Mizrahi, so that he would not stumble over the words.

Only some two or three hours later did police chief Moshe Karadi have a word himself with Mizrahi. Ezra had chopped off Mizrahi's head to the shouts of joy of his Likud colleagues, and had left Karadi in the guise of a partner to the Likud's war against corruption.

It is not a role he will have to play forever, since Karadi will be allowed to recommend a candidate to serve as the new investigations chief. He can either decide to promote a senior officer, or to bring back into the service a former officer who is a legal expert. One such person is Judge Oded Mudrick, a former legal adviser to the police who decided to acquit Ehud Olmert in the Likud election money scandal. Another is Yaakov Grossman, who was deputy head of investigations at the time Netanyahu was being investigated.

Among officers serving now, the names being mentioned are Yohanan Danino, who heads Ezra's operational staff, and Miri Golan, who heads the national fraud unit. If Karadi choses Golan as his candidate, the minister may refuse to approve the appointment. If he offers Danino the position, a few short months after his previous promotion, Karadi will be seen as an active partner in the Mazuz gang that declared war on Edna Arbel, Mizrahi and Golan.

Ezra put Karadi in the corner already on November 2, when he passed on to the police chief a demand from his Likud colleague, Gilad Erdan, that Mizrahi be removed from his post. If Mizrahi has anything new to add, he must do so before November 20, Ezra told Karadi at the time.

Mizrahi did not argue with the minister's right to decide to terminate his service in the position. He had served there for four years and his lawyer informed Karadi that his client was prepared to accept another suitable senior position. Karadi had planned to transfer him in the middle of 2005 - but Ezra wanted Mizrahi's head on a plate in time for the Likud elections and forced the police chief to act immediately.