Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Top-Echelon Corruption Discussed

Hillel Fendel Top-Echelon Corruption Discussed

Former Public Security Minister Dr. Uzi Landau proposes adding 10,000 policemen to the national force over the next five years, while a former Police Investigation Department chief defends the police department and says government corruption is rampant. Participating in the 6th Jerusalem Conference’s session on “Israel’s War Against Corruption and Crime,” Dr. Landau said that crime in Israel in 2005 cost the country nearly 14 billion shekels – “and this number continues to rise.” The costs, he said, stem from public corruption, cheating the National Insurance Institute out of disability and other payments, Mafia-like protection money, crime families, and more.

Email readers, click here to watch Dr. Landau interview

“If we empower the police to deal with the issues,” Landau feels, “the police can become not only cost-effective, but even a springboard for economic growth.”

Landau, a long-time Likud member, is now running in the #2 slot on the Yisrael Beiteinu party list - whose head, Avigdor Lieberman, is the target of a long-running police investigation regarding campaign funding irregularities. Seven people close to Lieberman were called in for questioning this week - prompting protests against "election tampering" by the police.

Landau said his goal is to make the restoration of personal safety a top priority for the new government – which Yisrael Beiteinu hopes to join when Binyamin Netanyahu, who is favored to win the elections, forms it. Landau proposes giving the Prime Minister direct responsibility over the Public Security Ministry, aided by a team of professionals, thus lending it the backing of his prestige and authority.

Landau also proposes adding 2,000 policemen in each of the next five years. In addition, he says, the police department must be upgraded professionally and technologically, and Israel must build a new prison in each of the next three years. He is pleased with the move towards biometric ID – as opposed to today’s ID cards – in helping to fight crime.

Chief Investigator Moshe Mizrachi

Landau was preceded at the Conference session by Moshe Mizrachi, who headed the Investigations Department of the Israel Police until November 2004. Mizrachi was fired for having been what was described at the time as "overly enthusiastic" in carrying out his job, wiretapping many nationalistic public officials and transcribing the conversations. Some 70% of the calls he wiretapped and transcribed were later found to be of a personal nature or otherwise irrelevant. The police unit for the investigation of police officers recommended that Mizrachi be tried, then-Police Chief Shlomo Aharonishki was willing to settle for only a negative comment in his file, and then-Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra decided to remove Mizrachi from his post.

Mizrachi told the Jerusalem Conference audience that “from my subjective point of view, I see a picture of public corruption that is even uglier than most people perceive. I see the ‘intelligence map’ of public corruption in our upper echelons, I see the quick plea bargains, and I see many things that never reach the headlines. Too often, money and government mix together improperly, on both the national and the municipal levels.”

Mizrachi said that the police are possibly to blame just for “not paying enough attention to the growth of corruption and organized crime a few years ago; we might have been too busy with the Ohr Commission [which investigated the deaths of 13 violent rioting Israeli-Arabs at the hands of the police at the beginning of the Oslo War in 2000 – ed, as well as with other issues that kept us in the limelight.”

Professor Provides Perspective

Prof. Yochanan Vozner, former Dean of the Social Work School in Tel Aviv University, said, “I’m sure everyone here agrees with everything that was said here” – causing some raised eyebrows – “but it should also be noted that there has never been a society in history in which there was not some corruption. Even Samuel the Prophet, in his parting speech to the People of Israel, professed, ‘Whose ox did I ever take?’ and the like – showing that the suspicion of corruption was not unheard of. This is important to know…"

"At the risk of saying something that is already time-worn," noted the professor, "I will say that what is important is education: Our youth should not grow up thinking that the ideal is to outsmart and get the better of the other guy, but rather that he has a right to make a living just as much as I do…”

Impromptu Questions

Though there was no time for questions, several in the audience crowded around Landau and Mizrachi afterwards and asked questions such as: “Why is there a sense in the public that the police department also has its share of corruption? Why do we need 10,000 more policemen simply to deal with a few crime families? Why is there a sense in some sectors of the public that people can get arrested, or worse, for no apparent reason, and are then released a day later with nothing more than a curt apology, if that? Why must the police grab the limelight by publicizing its recommendations regarding investigations of public figures? Why was Avigdor Lieberman [currently doing well in the polls as head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party – ed suddenly the subject of a widely-publicized police investigation just two weeks before the election? Why are there especially tough police guidelines against the Jews of Hevron?”

Most of the questions were not answered, though Landau explained that more policemen are needed to be on the streets and in the malls to prevent petty crime, and for the detective departments; he said he was not referring to the more “violent” policemen of the Yassam units and the like. Mizrachi said he is convinced that the timing of investigations of public officials is, at worst, “poor judgment” on someone’s part, but that it is certainly not intended to interfere in the electoral process.

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