Gideon Ezra's Grab

If Edna Arbel had worked the way Ezra worked, she would have filed an indictment against Sharon last January, while she was serving as acting attorney general.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz was asked a month ago how he reconciled his warning to ministers not to accede to requests from people who belong to their party's central committees, with his decision not to prosecute Ariel Sharon for his dubious ties with Likud wheeler dealer David Appel. Mazuz, his aides and spokesmen spent 24 hours working on the response to the question, and finally came up with something that should please everyone: "The decision," they declared, "speaks for itself."

So that's how 2004 speaks for itself, as the year of victory for institutionalized corruption in Israel over those who fight corruption. Mazuz is made attorney general. Eran Shander is made state prosecutor. Gideon Ezra becomes public security minister. Mazuz closes the Sharon-Appel case. Ezra cuts off the head of the Criminal Investigations Department in the police, Moshe Mizrahi.

At Mizrahi's own demand, former attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein ordered an inquiry into the wiretapping affair, thus revealing Mizrahi to be a clever officer, but not very smart. A smart officer would not have offered to take upon himself personal responsibility, not general command responsibility for what took place in a unit under his command - and the entire affair was not about his functioning as CID chief, but rather for prior incidents, when he commanded the International Crimes Unit.

That's Mizrahi's way, unlike Shendar's, who evaded responsibility for the failures of his staff in the Police Investigations Unit. Shendar evaded, and covered up for his people: in at least one case, Shendar is remembered in the police for an occasion when one of his PIU officers was caught stealing building supplies red-handed and quickly incriminated himself, and Shendar pleaded with the investigating officers from the Coast Plain subdistrict to close the case and let the suspect go.

In Mizrahi's department, another half of the inquiry has been completed against Sharon, his son Omri and others in the matter of the campaign financing. The other half, the Cyril Kern half, awaits the whistle signaling the end of its first half. Mazuz wasn't bothered that Sharon, who heads the government that appointed the attorney general, appointed the public security minister who deposed the commander of the investigators working on Sharon's case; the attorney general did not demand that Sharon resign from his office until the end of the inquiry.

There is suspicion that he was disturbed, indeed very disturbed, by Tzachi Hanegbi serving as public security minister - the same Hanegbi who refused to fire Mizrahi. Hanegbi made Moshe Karadi the chief of police, surprising Sharon but with Sharon's agreement (while the premier expressed interest in another commander, David Tzur, who was promoted from command of the Border Police to the command of the Tel Aviv District). But neither was in any hurry to fire Mizrahi. In the long run, for the sake of his reputation, Karadi does not want to be seen as being an obedient puppet of ministers.

Hanegbi's position on the Mizrahi question became clear from his avoidance of dealing with it. In effect, without paying the political price in the party for it, Hanegbi adopted the position of the previous chief of police, Shlomo Aharonishki, to make do with a "commanders' note" in Mizrahi's personnel file. It's the kind of reprimand that has little meaning in the police, or beyond.

When the state comptroller published his report on the political appointments and cronyism, Mazuz leaped on it like a bargain and insisted that the investigation against Hanegbi take place in the police and not by any other investigative body or special team. As a result, Hanegbi had to be removed from the Public Security Ministry, lest his investigators be intimidated by what he might do to them. Thus Mazuz paved the way for Ezra, who better than Hanegbi understood the will of his party.

When the Supreme Court allowed Hanegbi to return one of these days to the Public Security Ministry if no indictment is filed against him, Ezra had to move quickly, lest he run out of time to remove Mizrahi from office two weeks before Ezra's temporary, three-month term in the ministry comes to an end on December 6 - the minority government might not win approval in the Knesset for a renewal of the position, if it doesn't win the support of an old enemy of Mizrahi's, Avigdor Lieberman.

The practical result could be leaving Mizrahi in his job a little while longer, and maybe even the arrival of another minister, temporary or permanent, who would cancel Ezra's decision. But what would Ezra care - he's earned his points in the Likud central committee. If Edna Arbel had worked the way Ezra worked, she would have filed an indictment against Sharon last January, while she was serving as acting attorney general.

Mazuz made clear from the start that he wanted to get rid of Mizrahi and thus move closer to a general purge of the law enforcement agencies of the Edna Arbel school. To complete the purge, all he has to do now is make sure that Miri Golan, head of the Fraud Squad and in charge of the probe into Sharon's case, is blocked from becoming CID commander.

Mizrahi was on his way out anyway, through the natural change of command as well as to make room to another officer - perhaps, as Karadi hoped, a district commander - while next summer Mizrahi would merge the Intelligence Department with the Crime Fighting Division. But to make sure that every cop from top to bottom understood, Mizrahi could not be allowed to go quietly next month, and an execution was required, that night, at that place, in the city square at the party's central committee convention.