The Affliction

In Israel 2006, the police have no law, and the law has no police. Dichter will have to deal with this situation promptly, and rehabilitate the country's law enforcement branch.

For the time being, there have only been letters of caution. Prior to the completion of the work of the Zeiler Committee, the 13 people under caution remain in their jobs; until the publication of the final report, they are innocent.

The picture of the Parinyan affair, or of the relevant details in the scandal of the Southern District of the Israel Police is still not complete - but the very fact that two commissioners, major generals, six senior officers and three leading members of the legal system are under caution is an indication of the depth of the affliction that has spread in the Israel Police, the State Prosecutor's Office and the Police Investigations Department (PID) in the Justice Ministry.

It is testimony to the fact that the law enforcement system is not functioning properly. One gets the impression that in Israel 2006, the police have no law, and the law has no police.

For over a decade, prosecutors, judges and investigative journalists have been whispering loudly: There is no police force in Israel. There are traffic police, immigration police, a police reconnaissance unit, Border Police and special units to disperse demonstrations, but no police force to truly protect the citizen and his rights. There are no police to protect the community and its lifestyle, to seriously fight organized crime, deal with sophisticated white-collar criminals and protect battered and threatened women. Nor are there police to check the wave of violence and knifings, and to enforce the law on hooligans in the settlements. There is not really a police force that imposes law, morality and order in a controlled, systematic and consistent manner.

Some of the critics of the police claim that behind the surprising and wishy-washy police behavior on several issues lies genuine rot, which emits a stench of corruption. It may soon be proven that certain isolated police tissue has become malignant. But it is more reasonable to assume that the true affliction of the police force is not corruption, but arbitrariness - a tendency to play favorites, to play up certain cases and to whitewash others; a tendency not to be punctilious about procedures and professional ethical codes, and to treat the law as though it were a noncommittal recommendation. If you so wish, you enforce it; if you don't wish to, you don't.

Most of the investigations into corruption in Israel in recent years have not been initiated by the police. The investigation of the Shimon Sheves affair was initiated by private investigator Meir Palevsky. The investigation into affairs related to the Sharon family was initiated by private investigator David Spector. The investigation into the affairs related to the leaders of Shas were initiated by journalist Mordechai Gilat and members of his staff. The exposure of the Parinyan affair was initiated by journalist Ilana Dayan.

The police themselves do not expose their own corruption. They have no system that obliges them to engage in planned and continuous activity against the corrupt, the corrupting and lawbreakers. At best, the police handle complaints sent to them, and examine evidentiary files that are submitted with great fanfare and media coverage. When the police face a genuine challenge, as in the Yossi Ginosar affair, the affair of the gas deals and other cases involving capital-criminality-government, they are impotent.

Just as the police have allowed the night scene to resemble Chicago, they have allowed the political-economic scene to resemble Palermo. The reason is that the police, as presently constituted, lack sufficient resolve and sufficient ability to preserve a country governed by civil laws. They lack the ethics and the power required in order to maintain Israel as a society in which one law applies to everyone in the same manner.

Only after Judge Vardi Zeiler has his say will it be possible to assess the true dimensions of the Parinyan affair. Only then will it become clear who of those under caution did in fact fail, and in what way, which system became contaminated, and to what extent. But already now it is clear that Public Security Minister Avi Dichter is facing a national mission of the utmost importance.

Within a short time, he will have to rebuild the Israel Police from the foundations, breathe a new spirit into it, decide on a new value system, and reorganize it. Dichter will be forced to bring about a situation in which the police will once again be the loyal, honest and capable executive arm of the rule of law.