Until the Next Missile

The Sharon government's powerlessness in its struggle against the "Jewish Jihad" is no less than, and perhaps even greater than, the powerlessness of Abu Mazen's government in its struggle against Islamic Jihad.

The lead headline in Friday's Haaretz reported that four soldiers had been wounded by Qassam rocket fire at a base in the Ashkelon area. The Israel Defense Forces promised to step up the targeted killings and impose an "aerial siege" on the northern Gaza Strip. At the bottom of the same page was a report about a LAW missile being fired at the home of Asi Abutbul, considered a "police target," in the Ramat Poleg neighborhood of Netanya. The district commander said that the incident was "unusual and very serious," but took comfort from the fact that "the shooters are not professionals." He promised to investigate all angles of the case. Until the next missile.

I admit, with some embarrassment, that the missile in Ramat Poleg and the helplessness of the authorities made me rest more uneasily over the weekend than the rocket in south Ashkelon and the IDF's harsh response. The conflict among the elite in the Israeli crime world worries me more these days than the conflict with the Palestinians. The next time the unprofessional shooters miss their target, they are liable to hurt my loved ones.

If we did not have the misfortune of living a floor below the Abutbul family, I could have been expected to dedicate the next lines to the Sharon government, which has weakened the Palestinian Authority and then complains about the weakness the PA displays in the face of the Qassams. But a person, even a journalist, is closest to his own troubles. When the troubles of serious crime touch you personally, it suddenly becomes clear that the constant preoccupation with the violent conflict with the Palestinians has diverted our collective attention from the monster that has sprung up at home. This monster will never be a partner for negotiations, and it has never heard of the tahadiyeh [the "calm" that some Palestinian organizations have agreed to maintain].

The Sharon government's powerlessness in its struggle against the "Jewish Jihad" is no less than, and perhaps even greater than, the powerlessness of Abu Mazen's government in its struggle against Islamic Jihad. Even when Israel cuts off contact with the PA, Jewish crime and Palestinian terror continue to cooperate - one with Scuds and the other with LAWs.

The state comptroller has found that there is extensive cooperation between those involved in terrorism and those involved in crime when it comes to smuggling weapons and drugs. On the other hand, he warned in his 2003 report about the "absence of sufficient cooperation" among intelligence officials in the IDF, the Shin Bet security service and the police, who are responsible for coping with that same smuggling.

In 2003, nine Israelis were murdered when they had the misfortune to be caught in the line of fire of the underworld wars. At the end of that year, after three people had been killed and 36 wounded by a bomb that was supposed to kill Ze'ev Rosenstein, the government decided that organized crime requires "total national mobilization." The comptroller has monitored the implementation of this decision and cites a typical example of this "total mobilization": In May 2003, one of the income tax assessment offices received information from the police about a casino owner who made an average of about a quarter of a million shekels a day and was evading taxes. By August 2004, the tax assessment office had yet to open an investigation. The comptroller found that the police notified the Tax Authority in a timely fashion in only eight out of 34 investigations that related to suspected money laundering, brothel operating, casino running or human trafficking offenses.

Two years have passed since the government declared a "national mobilization" against violent crime, and the justice and public security ministers have decided, as though nothing were happening, to put a new decision before the cabinet: It calls for "defining the struggle against serious and organized crime and its results as a long-term objective." They also propose establishing (how could they not?) a task force for setting policy, a joint intelligence team and even a liaison committee.

The ministers have not forgotten to emphasize that effective enforcement requires bolstering the resources available to the Justice and Public Security Ministries, the police and the Israel Money Laundering Prohibition Authority. They do not write that the political, economic and intellectual resources missing in the war against LAW missiles are invested in the war against Qassam rockets. Unfortunately, our neighbors do not understand that it is not worth wasting ammunition on us: We will destroy our home on our own.