Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi Resigns
Moshe Karadi, appointed Israel's Police Commissioner in 2004 just in time to prepare the police force to carry out the Disengagement from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron, has resigned his post in ignominy.
The Zeiler Commission, headed by retired Justice Vardi Zeiler, released its findings this morning (Sunday), implicating Karadi in a series of misjudgments and faulty actions regarding the mishandling of murder cases, apathy and carelessness in sensitive cases, poor appointments and more.
In a short press conference at 6 PM this evening, Karadi announced that he would not relate to the specific recommendations against him at this time. He said that many of the organizational changes recommended by the Zeiler Commission had already been implemented. "This is a difficult hour for me and for the police force that I head," Karadi said.
Karadi said that the exact date of his departure from office would be determined by the government, and that until then, he would remain in his post. He said that though he has reservations with some of the commission's findings, he has chosen to show a personal example and assume personal responsibility.
Karadi had served as Israel Police's southern region for a year and a half when, in May 2004, then-Public Security Minister Tzachi HaNegbi announced his appointment as Israel's Police Commissioner. The appointment was a surprising one, as it passed over four more senior officers under consideration.
Minister HaNegbi said at the time that his aim in appointing Karadi was two-fold: to bring in a man with experience, knowledge and ability to run the force, and at the same time to promote the "young generation" of police commanders. He had been credited with bringing down crime rates in the south, improving relations between police and the community, and other accomplishments.
In recent weeks, ex-IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Dan Halutz resigned because of the army's relatively poor performance during the summer war. President Moshe Katzav is under similar pressure to resign because of criminal sexual charges against him, but he refuses to do so, agreeing only to suspend himself. Katzav denies the charges and notes that he has not yet been indicted.
Eight months before the expulsion from Gush Katif, Commissioner Karadi drew the wrath of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when he implied that it would be difficult to evacuate the residents. Comparing Gush Katif to Yamit, which was forcibly evacuated in 1982, Karadi said that Yamit was not accepted in the national consensus as an integral part of the State of Israel, but "the settling of Gush Katif is considered settlement of the Land." He said that there is no room for comparison between the two, as "the Gush Katif settlement enterprise is totally idealistic and based on faith."
Karadi later prepared a plan by which nearly 18,000 of Israel's 24,000 policemen were to be involved in some aspect or another of the Disengagement, with about 5,000-6,000 of them expected to be involved in the actual forceful removal of Jews from their homes.
In July 2005, a month before the expulsion, a mass rally was called in the Negev town of Kfar Maimon to protest the Disengagement - and police simply turned back many of the buses taking would-be participants to the protest. In some cases, police officers threatened bus drivers with the revocation of their licenses if they attempted to drive their passengers to the rally. Then-Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was asked by the BBC at the time whether the methods being used to prevent the protest did not call Israel's status as a democracy into question. "This is not a regular legitimate protest," Olmert responded. "The government has decided to withdraw from Gaza, and this demonstration goes against the decision of the absolute majority and is illegitimate."
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) later condemned the behavior of the police. In an urgent letter submitted to Police Chief Moshe Karadi, ACRI attorney Lila Margalit said that the police had overstepped its authority when it obstructed civilian buses. She explained that while police have a right and an obligation to prevent law-breaking, law-enforcement agencies do not have the right to limit and prevent the transport of people to a legal congregation site merely because of suspicions as to what they might do afterward.
It was at that Kfar Maimon protest that Negev Police Commander Niso Shacham was recorded telling Border Guard officers to beat the anti-Disengagement protestors with clubs in the "lower part of their bodies;" cursing what he called "these hareidim;" and saying, "let them burn." He also said that he wants "lots of arrests," and used various vulgarities in referring to how he wanted them treated. The Yesha Council later stated, "Shacham's barbaric words... rather represent the dominant trend in the police since the struggle against the expulsion started... While we call on Gush Katif supporters to refrain from violence, the police are acting with violence and provocations."
In a letter at the time to the Prime Minister, MK Michael Eitan, then-Chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, protested the increasing police violence against pro-Gush Katif protestors. Eitan wrote that "during a Likud Knesset faction meeting in which [Sharon] participated, I reported that the Knesset Law Committee had received much evidence of police violence against anti-disengagement protestors - not only in the dispersal of demonstrations, but also in situations in which the protestors were beaten by policemen even when they [the victims] were already apprehended, handcuffed and helpless."
MK Eitan, a Likud MK who supported the withdrawal/expulsion, noted that he had asked that the legal proceedings against policemen accused of violence be speeded up and that the suspects be suspended. He further wrote that he had asked Sharon to incorporate in his remarks of support for the police a warning not to use undue violence. "Unfortunately," Eitan wrote, "the investigations were not hurried up, and your voice on this matter was not heard."
Yesha Council officials also said that the police decision not to allow the march in its entirety was a "surrender to the dictates of the Sharon family." Council head Bentzy Lieberman told Karadi at the time that the opponents of the disengagement had been "left with no way of protesting legitimately, because everything we try becomes outlawed."