Between the Lines / The Sderot Dilemma

The government must either initiate a diplomatic move that entails negotiations with Hamas, which contradicts the government's entire declared strategy, or to embark on an extensive military action the price and outcome of which are unknown.

"There is no source in the law that obligates the state to make the homes of the inhabitants in Sderot bombproof and to bear the cost of this fortification" - from the state's response to a petition filed by 30 residents of Sderot

"We call upon the prime minister to follow in the footsteps of Eli Moyal and to resign from his position because of his failure to ensure the security of the city's inhabitants" - Alon Davidi, chairman of the Sderot security staff

You can't envy the justices of the High Court of Justice, who now have to make a decision regarding the petition submitted by the inhabitants of Sderot. It's not enough that they are trapped in a big dispute with the justice minister over their very right to intervene in what is clearly a governmental policy; they have found themselves in a situation in which both sides are right. Even if they summon the courage to risk exacerbation of this conflict with the government and to probe deeply into the crux of the matter, they are still facing a dilemma that will demand great creativity from them in order to escape unscathed.

Politicians and commentators who automatically position themselves with the petitioners are making things too easy for themselves. It is impossible not to identify with the suffering of the inhabitants of Sderot, and it is clear that the government is responsible for ensuring their safety. Their mayor, Eli Moyal, submitted his resignation after another heavy rocket barrage. The question is how to do this in view of the tangle of conflicting interests the government is confronting. On the one hand, it is impossible to abandon the inhabitants; that is a position that is not acceptable by any moral standard.

On the other hand, it is impossible to bombproof the entire city, because at the next stage it will be necessary to fortify the entire country. The budgetary, political and security-related implications are intolerable. This dilemma leads to a decision that to the government's mind is like a choice between the plague and cholera - either to initiate a diplomatic move that entails negotiations with Hamas, which contradicts the government's entire declared strategy, or to embark on an extensive military action the price and outcome of which are unknown. After all, no one intends to occupy the Gaza Strip again and even when the Israel Defense Forces was massively and extensively active there, the rockets continued to fall on Sderot.

This difficult choice has been paralyzing the government and is forcing it to come to terms with the existing situation: From its perspective, the price Sderot is paying is tolerable in comparison to the alternatives. The trouble is that no one is capable of admitting this outright.

From my safe place in Tel Aviv I add my voice to the opponents of massive fortification and to the supporters of initiating contacts with Hamas on a limited agreement, despite all the security risks and the political obstacles. The military alternative, for which the defense establishment, politicians from the right and a large part of the public are wishing, looks to me like it doesn't stand a chance and is far more risky.

However, unlike me, the High Court of Justice is not supposed to provide political recommendations to the government. It is supposed to rule on a concrete petition concerning 800 buildings that were built in the 1960s without security rooms, and for which recently preparations for fortification had begun (until the government changed its mind). If the High Court limits its intervention to this issue alone, then perhaps it will be able to find a creative solution that will satisfy the petitioners.

They've buried Shub

"The media personality at the center of a rape investigation is journalist Adam Shub. Sources familiar with the details of the investigation have said that in one case there is a complaint of rape, and in the other of assault" - Ynet exposes the name of Adam Shub from police sources, December 4

"Four complainants against Adam Shub - The police have obtained the names of two more women who, according to the suspicions, have been sexually attacked by Shub. Investigation team leader Chief Inspector Dikla Ginat: 'The suspect has linked himself to the victims'" - Maariv, after the extension of Shub's remand for three days, December 6

"This case simply doesn't hold water. It is not possible to bring Shub to court because there is simply no evidence for an indictment and it is a pity to take up a bed in the jail" - Maariv, December 7

The Adam Shub affair has exemplified yet again the intolerable haste with which the popular media swarm all over a sensational story with a sexual angle, way before the facts are fully clarified, while causing damage to its protagonist. As in similar cases in the past, this time, too, the exaggerated volume of the reports and certainly the hasty revelation of the suspect's name were out of place. It very quickly became clear that the reality is very far from the reports - not four complainants, but barely one and even her complaint is not well grounded. Many have already protested this journalistic practice, which damages the trustworthiness of the media and invites external intervention to impose restrictions on them.

However, in the storm of criticism of Ynet and its ilk, the central role the police play in these affairs has been forgotten. This starts with the organizational/public relations interest of the police force as a whole and continues with the personal interests of specific officers, who use "hot" information that falls into their hands as a means of self-promotion. This was the case in the "7th-grade monsters" affair - an innocent story about a vodka-drinking competition that was sent to the police reporters' beepers in the guise of a sensational rape of a 12-year-old girl - and this also happened in the case of Adam Shub.

But why go that far? Recently police officers, of all rank and district, have discovered the intoxicating charm of television. Anyone who is exposed to the daily current-events programs, especially those of Rafi Reshef (Channel 10) and Oded Ben-Ami (Channel 2), knows the drill: Senior officers appear daily in front of the cameras and report in an authoritative tone on criminal events, sometimes marginal and routine ones, as though they were full-fledged reporters. Any act of robbery or violence brings some police brigadier general to the screen as an essential adornment. This phenomenon can be called the "celebritization of the duty officer" - the interviewee adds no news value, apart from his face, his name and his rank.

The impression is that more than the calf (the media) wants to suckle, the cow (the police) wants to nurse it. As long as this phenomenon amounts to an "inflation" of police officers on the television screens and the Internet, it is possible to relate to it with forgiving ridicule. The problem starts when these same officers (or those who send them) do their part in the tacit deal and in return provide the media with unripe information, with a bias toward complaints of sensational acts of rape. This is how the media snowball was created which buried Adam Shub for several days until it was reported by the police that "the case does not hold water." Now we just have to figure out which policeman to believe.