More Chelm Than Sicily

But the police fish doesn't stink from the head. What stinks is the attitude of the government, which regards the police force as a hostile agency that deserves to have its budgets clipped, which leads to less safety for Israeli citizens.

I almost fell off my chair when I read in Haaretz that Judge Vardi Zeiler is afraid Israel is turning into Sicily, if it hasn't done so already. It's true that all kinds of things happen here that weren't part of Herzl's vision for a Jewish state, but they fit more in the Chelm than the Sicily department.

A president suspected of rape, a prime minister under police investigation, a justice minister charged with committing an indecent act and a finance minister being interrogated in an embezzlement scam. At least they're not murdering judges and state prosecutors like in Sicily. At most, they look like the tragic doubles of the Wise Men of Chelm.

Over the last few years, actually, there has been a significant shift in the public's attitude on government norms. Gone are the days of cover-ups and whitewashing.

Those elected to a political or governmental office are being held to the standards of a democratic country, now more than ever before. The public is less interested in a summit with Abu Mazen that produces zilch, and more focused on domestic issues and norms of reward and punishment.

In the span of one month, chief of staff Dan Halutz and police commissioner Moshe Karadi quit. Two investigating committees worked simultaneously and penetrated the two bodies responsible for state security. The Zeiler Committee has completed its job, and the Winograd Committee will submit its interim report in mid-March.

The assumption is that the Winograd Committee will not want to be less damning than the Zeiler investigation was.

It will probably come out with an even graver report. It will reach those higher up on the political ladder and make mincemeat out of the decision-making apparatus that decides on matters of war and peace, on life and death. But Sicily, it's not.

Dan Halutz did the army a favor by resigning of his own accord. That way he also spared himself the unpleasantness of being fired and enabled the defense minister to quickly replace him with a general who has only been out of the army for two years.

This means he wasn't involved in the bungles of the war in Lebanon, but is still enough of an expert in military affairs to be welcomed as a new broom. And because he is grateful to the defense minister for appointing him, chances are that a good working relationship will develop between them.

Avi Dichter's choice of prisons service commissioner Yaakov Ganot for police commissioner seems reasonable. But the purists among us wondered why he rushed to appoint an officer who was involved in a scandal 13 years ago, instead of looking for an outside candidate.

Dichter, still a political greenhorn, revealed that before he chose Ganot, he offered the job to four or five other people outside the police force and they all turned him down.

That confession was a double mistake. First of all, because it inadvertently turned Ganot into a default candidate, and secondly, because it showed how lowly the police force is in the eyes of worthy candidates outside the system. But the police fish doesn?t stink from the head. What stinks is the attitude of the government, which regards the police force as a hostile agency that deserves to have its budgets clipped, which leads to less safety for Israeli citizens. Again, more Chelm than Sicily.

Judge Winograd is not competing with Zeiler. Zeiler's job was to investigate a specific organization, while Winograd could bring about a political upheaval. To the Winograd Committee, the Zeiler Committee is small change.

Winograd's conclusions on whether the government exercised good judgment and whether its decision to fight a 33-day war was reached in a worthy manner, could be a blow to the highest echelons of government. The conclusions of this committee could have far-reaching implications.The Winograd report will be published at a time when the country is in the throes of an acute leadership shortage. Israel desperately needs a cadre of younger, more talented leaders.

Still in the grips of the terrible trauma of the war, one of the typical episodes was an embarrassing public spat the whole country witnessed on television: Defense Minister Amir Peretz arguing with the head of the IDF Intelligence Research Division, Brigadier General Yossi Beiditz, about whether Hezbollah had recovered and was now equipped with even fancier equipment than before.

But this public disagreement doesn't matter. The hourglass is running out and it looks like the next military confrontation will involve Hezbollah, Gaza and the territories - simultaneously.

At the very least, the political and military leadership can expect a yellow card from Winograd. The public demanded investigating committees and got them. What it needs to do now is digest the conclusions these committees come to, and let Israel's leaders (if they remain in power) fix what can be fixed, fully aware of the fact that the yellow card is followed by a red one.

Sicily we're not, but Chelm is not such a great honor, either.