The End of the Police Fiasco

Danino is the third commissioner in a row who had previously served as head of the Southern District, after Moshe Karadi and David Cohen.

At 11:45 A.M. yesterday, Yohanan Danino entered the office of Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch after Shahar Ayalon and before Ilan Franco, and was still uncertain what he was about to hear during the minute that had been allotted to each. Was he or Ayalon to be the next police commissioner? In previous cases, the official decision was whispered in the ear of the incumbent the night before. Not this time.

The impression that Aharonovitch's decision had been predetermined is mistaken. The events that brought Danino to the end of the process has to do with two women: Orly Innes and Esterina Tartman.

In 2007 the decision of Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman to appoint Tartman Minister of Tourism was foiled when it was learned that the details about her education had been doctored. The next option, Israel Hasson, was disqualified because he was suspected of having been involved in blocking Tartman. Aharonovitch was pulled out of the depths of the party's political list. Two years later, in the elections for the new government, the minister moved to the Public Security Ministry, which Lieberman had wanted, but had been kept from because he was suspected of fraud.

Innes, as is known, caused two candidates for the top job in the police, Uri Bar-Lev and Ilan Franco, to be dropped from the list. When he was left with Danino and Ayalon, Aharonovitch consulted mostly with supporters of Danino, like former commissioner Shlomo Aharonishki and former minister Gideon Ezra.

Danino has a quality that is worth millions, or at least the police commissioner's post: He knows to be friends with those who can decide his promotion. Moshe Karadi was similarly qualified, being appointed Major General because he impressed minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, and four years and two postings later became commissioner because he impressed Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.

Hanegbi asked Karadi to promote Danino to Major General and appoint him Chief of Operations for the minister, a job which Danino held under Ezra and from which he rose to the job he wanted, which was head of investigations and intelligence. Had Hanegbi thought that promoting Danino would upset then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he would have found another officer to promote.

The problem with police officers whom politicians like is that sometimes there is a reason for this affection. Karadi, especially during the tenure of Ehud Olmert as prime minister, was closer to those being investigated than to the investigators.

One cannot suspect Danino of naivete. As head of the fraud squad, he did not press the Greek Island affair against Sharon. A more energetic investigator in that case would have gotten a warrant and informed the Shin Bet VIP protection department that he intended to raid the homes of Sharon, without entering the prime minister's residence. We could consider this an error of youth. As an experienced Major General he behaved differently.

It is not so significant that Danino is the third commissioner in a row to be selected to the job from being head of the Southern District, after Karadi and David Cohen. It is important, on the other hand, that he is the second head of investigation and intelligence in a row, after Cohen, to rise to the job. He is also a lawyer who knows to evaluate the legal basis of a case and the chances that a recommendation for an indictment has of being accepted by the Prosecutor's Office.

Aharonovitch fulfilled his promises on two matters: a professional appointment, and the appointment from within the ranks. He opted for a serving Major General, not a retiree, who has field experience and also worked at the headquarters. They share a common language about the future of the police. One of the officers who had hoped Danino would be appointed said this about the advantages the man brings to the job: "A gifted manager, open to criticism, cool."

Unlike Cohen, who opened up to the media gradually, Danino will operate from the first minute as a national figure, meeting the press, and through it the legislators and budgets. He has good chances for success: His most bitter critics at the police are now outside, or on their way out.

The effort to block the appointment at the courts was doomed to fail. The Supreme Court will not intervene in a case where the Attorney General has given a favorable opinion. But the opposition expressed by the State Comptroller opens an interesting front: Yehuda Weinstein, Aharonovitch, and Danino vs. Micha Lindenstrauss.

Aharonovitch loves his job and aims to change the police from the top, with a commissioner he shares views with. With Danino's help he will try to quickly absorb the Fire and Rescue Commission and then the Home Front Command.

As for Ayalon, he was disappointed but not upset.