On Judgment and Humility

Avi Dichter conducted the changing of personnel at the police in a manner resembling the botched second Lebanon war and the dig at the Mugrabi Gate. Everyone can clearly see government behavior that is cause for concern.

Yesterday morning, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter announced in an authoritative voice that he is certain he will succeed in gaining approval for the appointment of Yaakov Ganot as chief of police. Less than an hour later, Army Radio announces that the candidate himself might actually not accept the job offer (a bit later Ganot took the time to dismiss that impression). With a very determined face, Dichter said that he would not be surprised if there is opposition to the appointment, but he also stressed that all possible arguments against Ganot have already been taken into account.

Dichter also said he had anticipated an appeal against the appointment, lodged with the Supreme Court - assuaging any fears the public may have regarding the ability of the public security minister to accurately read the situation. After all, a person who was the head of the Shin Bet is not supposed to be surprised by unexpected developments. This is not unlike July-August 2006, when the Israel Defense Forces told us they knew everything there was to know about Hezbollah's rocket arsenal. Dichter's act also resembles the behavior of the relevant authorities, who took into account the storm that would be stirred up as a result of the excavations near the Mugrabi Gate. They all knew about it - but they were not overly impressed.

Since the current government came to power, the public has repeatedly been given opportunities to examine its judgment and its ability to look into the future. The way this government decides is as follows: It responds quickly and firmly to developments, or initiates them; it firmly justifies its steps; it arrogantly rejects the skepticism its actions give rise to; shortly thereafter, reality hits it in the face.

In the second Lebanon War, the first decision - to respond aggressively to the abduction of the two soldiers - was announced with great confidence and enjoyed broad public support. Three to four days after the outbreak of the war, there were signs that something went wrong. The government and its head were trapped in the move they had initiated and lacked the necessary leadership to change direction, minimize damage and extricate themselves without having fully achieved their goals. The syndrome returned with greater force and in a concentrated manner during the two last days of the war, when Ehud Olmert was unable to stop a ground operation that had already gone into motion.

Two weeks ago the prime minister authorized the start of "rescue excavations" at the base of the Mugrabi Gate. It was announced that this decision had been the result of detailed discussions among all the relevant professional parties. When the Muslim protest began, the official spokespersons said it had been expected and that it would not alter the decision. The government sought to convince everyone that it had the situation under control and it presented a front of cool and decisiveness.

In practice, it turned out that the official version, regarding the orderly decision-making process, served as a cover for a not inconsiderable mess: The license issued was not the right one; the coordination with the Muslim authorities did not really merit the term; a gap emerged between the position of the government and the Jerusalem Municipality on the excavation work; and the attitude of the Antiquities Authority was met with criticism from the archaeological community. The claim that the excavations and the planned bridge were urgently needed, fell apart. Within a few days the government's determination broke down: It announced that the work would continue, but in practice postponed building the bridge by eight months. The municipality made it known that it is restarting a process to gain authorization for the work and the loud activity at the contested site was transformed into the manual labor of a handful of workers.

Avi Dichter conducted the changing of personnel at the police in a manner resembling the botched second Lebanon War and the dig at the Mugrabi Gate: Everyone can clearly see government behavior that is cause for concern. Even though decision-making is carried out in a supposedly orderly fashion, and even though these decisions reflect the judgment of the most senior officials - they are proven to be mistakes, often tragic ones, or just a farce. It could be argued that the idiotic results are a matter of opinion, not reality. In the past, because of distance to the leadership, the little citizen believed the rudder of state was in secure hands; the fact that the media is today part and parcel of the governing experience is what gives the heads of state a human appearance, which includes their weaknesses and mistakes. Perhaps. In any case, it is not an exaggerated request that the country's leadership behave wisely - at least in the way people behave in their private homes. And a regular citizen does not select as his insurance agent someone who has been branded as dishonest.