The Insight of the Shin Bet Chief

Avi Dichter is not only a minister; he was also the head of the Shin Bet, and through his skills and profession, he is supposed to be able to read the situation correctly.

Avi Dichter is not only a minister; he was also the head of the Shin Bet, and through his skills and profession, he is supposed to be able to read the situation correctly. More than most members of government, Dichter is apparently equipped with the ability to figure people out, to divine the public mood and to decipher the code according to which the affairs of state are conducted.

On Monday, this myth, too, collapsed. The former Shin Bet chief, whose acumen and decision making up to two years ago played a key role in formulating government policy on central issues, proved to be a political novice. The appointment of Yaakov Ganot as police commissioner, which he carefully planned over two months and described as the conduit for essential reforms in the police leadership, exploded like a bubble and exposed the minister of public security as an empty vessel.

Dichter's conduct in the Ganot appointment draws attention to his world of moral concepts and to his style. Dichter was aware of the stain on Ganot's past, but opted to ignore it. He highlighted the organizational and command skills attributed to Ganot and brushed aside the moral implications of his behavior and the biting opinion of the court about him, including those who exonerated him.

Dichter spoke with scorn and anger of the comments of retired Justice Yitzhak Zamir, who sat on the Supreme Court panel that deliberated Ganot's case and who attacked the plan to appoint him police commissioner. The minister opted to close his eyes to the Supreme Court's position on norms (in the case of former commissioner Rafi Peled), regarding the personal attributes expected of those who fill the post of chief of police in terms of moral standing. He was not even moved by the implication in the comment of Menachem Mazuz that legally there is no obstruction to Ganot's appointment - a statement imbued with reservation regarding the wisdom of the choice, both ethically and qualitatively.

Dichter's style suited his views. He informed the public, in a determined and decisive tone, that he was stating a fact, from one day to the next, and that the process was planned in detail and all implications were taken into account. He expressed his confidence that the appointment would overcome the expected legal snags (a petition to the High Court of Justice), and that Ganot would withstand the tribulations of unpleasant comments on his problematic past.

When he announced the appointment, Dichter said: "I have reached the conclusion that in order to improve the performance of 28,000 police officers, I have to place at the head of the organization a new senior command"; "under the current circumstances, in which the police commissioner resigned, just like the resignation of the chief of staff, it is appropriate that the time to [making] the appointment of the replacement commissioner be as short as possible"; "among all the relevant candidates... Ganot is the best, the most appropriate and has the greatest chances of success in the mission."

With his approach, Dichter managed to quarrel with the police leadership, who were insulted by his decision to skip over them in his choice for police commissioner, not to avail himself of the services of Deputy Police Commissioner Benny Kaniak and to present the police force as a feeble, ill-trained organization. In retrospect, Dichter finds himself also without Ganot, who, at least as head of the Prisons Service, is considered a success story.

As for the power of the reservations expressed about Ganot's appointment, Dichter said it had been taken into account in advance. Just as he sought to emphasize his ability to correctly assess reality and also foretell the future. The stronger the signals from the Turkell appointments committee became, suggesting problems with approval of the candidate, the minister found a way out: He told Yossi Verter of Haaretz that if Ganot is rejected, "Avi Dichter, the politician, will suffer a scratch on his foot as a result of this. No more."

Dichter proves once again he hasn't read the map correctly. He did not suffer a scratch, but a real defeat.

His performance in the Ganot appointment process proves he needs a long period of training to be ready to participate in the country's leadership. On Monday he said he has "a backup plan" in case the Ganot appointment does not work out. We have only to wait and see how Minister Dichter prepared, rigorously of course, for such a moment.