Nostalgia for the Sentry

Distancing and repressing is done with utmost sophistication here: The sharper the initial commitments, the duller the realizations.

This article would like to compete with the Lotto and the Toto lotteries that skyrocketed this week and to participate in the gambling craze: There isn't a person in the country who can guess how many investigative commissions of all kinds are sprouting here like mushrooms after the rain, even though there isn't any rain. The person who guesses correctly will be awarded the Alternative Israel Prize, on whose design a team of accountants and doomsayers is now laboring.

As a patriot of fungi and as someone who closely follows commissions and their conclusions, I, too, lost track long ago: The government appointed, the Knesset and its committees appointed, the state comptroller and every minister appointed, and the Israel Defense Forces and the police are appointing in a big way. Right at this very moment, dozens of teams and hundreds of diligent investigators and examiners, embracing the entire country and its orphans, are hard at work.

And there is method to the madness: When evil comes forth from the north or the south, from the sea or the east, bringing disgrace and wrath, an investigation is immediately announced. The urgent announcement transmits a multi-purpose message: First of all, it assuages to some extent the shock and the anger; secondly, it shows that it is not the intention of the appointers to move on as though nothing had happened, and that those who failed will be punished; thirdly, while things are indeed fatiguing, they are totally under control - there is nothing to worry about; and fourthly, what happened happened, it shouldn't have happened, and it won't happen again.

Time passes, the initial agitation wanes, a new blunder comes to the country and it blurs the tracks of its predecessor. Sometimes the impression is created that the continuous blunders are a policy dictated from above, a kind of perpetuum mobile that creates an atmosphere of darkness and oblivion destined to steal the limelight and cover tracks. What value is there to findings and conclusions that sink like a stone in the waters of justice ?

Distancing and repressing is done with utmost sophistication here: The sharper the initial commitments, the duller the realizations. And the method may be even more cunning and clever: It is not only out of fear that the investigations are multiplying, but also out of calculation. When inflation increases, even the coin of investigation loses value. Go for it, the government will say; let a thousand commissions bloom and no one will see the forest for the trees.

This week alone, five more Israel Defense Forces reports were published. All of them show that stone was not laid upon stone in building the war, and all of these reports make one tremble. How many times can one panic and tremble at the same horrifying picture? We have already trembled enough, and we have gotten used to it. And this was exactly the intention from the outset, that we would get used to it.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter is an international grand master in the game of flubs and faux pas, and he beats even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. This Dichter is a man for our times, a man for our rhymes, because he juxtaposes Dichter with Richter. Between the escape of the prisoner and the murder of schoolgirl Tair Rada, he blithely announced the earthquake expected at the Israel Police - a 7 on the Dichter Scale.

The minister does not know that a 7 is very major, "liable to cause the gravest damage in regions hundreds of kilometers from the epicenter." An earthquake did indeed take place, and in the meantime no one in the police force has been ousted. The top brass is serene, and there are no signs of a shakeup there. In the Tel Aviv and Northern Districts, only a light ripple in a drowsy cop's coffee cup has been registered; and the minister has had time to rest from his wrath.

The investigation commissions have also dozed off; the dozens of members have already realized they are scattering their sighs in the wind. Therefore there are no "personal conclusions" but only "systemic conclusions," as though the system ran by itself, entirely sterile and untouched by human hands.

It used to be that we exacted justice and cast the blame on the sentry, who was always guilty. Today, however, even the sentry is exempt, remaining on duty at the gate. We are already nostalgic for him.