Israeli Police's Meltdown Moment Points to the Problem

To prevent embarrassing episodes like the ones so widespread today among the police, the government must devise a strict process for vetting candidates for high government office.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
Israel Police Special Patrol Unit vehicles stationed near the Western Wall compound. February 25, 2014.
Israel Police Special Patrol Unit vehicles stationed near the Western Wall compound. February 25, 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

The Israel Police is in the throes of a serious crisis. District commanders are resigning one after the other, some voluntarily and some involuntarily. The situation of the Jerusalem district, the most sensitive of all, is especially grave: It just lost its third commander in the space of a few years. Maj. Gen. Yossi Pariente announced his surprise resignation from the force and withdrew his candidacy to become the next police commissioner because, he said, “I’m not built for the witch hunt of this race.” But among the police brass, there has been widespread speculation that his resignation was meant to forestall publication of an embarrassing episode from his past.

Pariente is the fourth major general to resign from the police over the last year. He joins Maj. Gen. Bruno Stein, who resigned two weeks ago after Haaretz revealed that he attended a party hosted by attorney Ronel Fisher, a suspected criminal; Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv, who resigned in February due to suspicions that he accepted favors from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto; and Maj. Gen. Niso Shaham, who was dismissed due to suspicions of sexual offenses against policewomen subordinate to him.

Each case had its own unique circumstances, but all produced the same public feeling that police commanders, who have broad powers to arrest and investigate, were offenders themselves, and that their behavior does no honor to the law enforcement system.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino’s statement that “Pariente’s departure poses a question mark regarding the way high offices in Israel are filled” – implying that “witch hunts” characterize the process of appointing senior public officials – is nothing but an evasion of responsibility for the ongoing failure at the top of the police force. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch is also a party to this high-level collapse.

The crisis in the police is indeed another sign that the method of appointing senior officials in Israel has failed, but not in the way Danino suggested. The Turkel Committee, which is partially responsible for vetting candidates for top civil service posts – including the governor of the Bank of Israel and his deputy, the police commissioner and the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff – hasn’t met the public’s expectations of it. This is evident from the disputes over the appointments of Yoav Galant as chief of staff and Jacob Frenkel as Bank of Israel governor. To prevent embarrassing episodes like the ones so widespread today among the police, the government must devise a strict process for vetting candidates for high government office. Anyone who considers himself good enough to contend for such a job should also be certain that he has clean hands, and should not be put off by a tough vetting mechanism.

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