Monday, June 07, 2004

I can't stay away from politics for long. I've railed already about the supreme court essentially appointing itself and how this resulted in a manifestly unworthy appointment like Edna Arbel. On another occasion I'll list all the terrible consequences of an ideologically and demographically homogeneous court. But Arbel's unworthiness stems from her role as State Prosecutor and it is the sins of the office she controlled that merit attention.

To make a very long story short, the state prosecutor's office consistently decides whether to pursue charges against politicians based on their political views. This is not conjecture; it is backed by overwhelming evidence. The most far-reaching consequence of this policy is its deterrent effect. Politicians know that if they behave according to the political preferences of the prosecutor's office, they have a better chance of not being charged with a crime. Every politician knows that there is an open file waiting for a misstep and that such files can be kept open for many years. They also know that if they pursue the "right" (that is, the left's) policies, any file can be made to disappear.

I could list two dozen examples with little effort. But I'll mention here only five of the most egregious ones, each of which has had significant political consequences:

1. For the first example, I'll simply quote my friend Jonathan Rosenblum:
"Arbel was accused, together with former attorney-general Michael Ben Yair, of bringing an indictment against then-justice minister Yaakov Neeman which they knew could not hold up in court. Their goal: to force the resignation of Neeman, an outspoken critic of the government legal system.
"The police were not allowed to enter a written recommendation concerning Neeman's prosecution into his file because prosecutors knew that the recommendation would be negative. Worse, the police were not allowed to interrogate the only relevant witness in the case, despite his pleas that they do so, because that testimony would have fully cleared Neeman.
"Though Neeman was fully exonerated by the court, which had harsh words of criticism of the prosecution, he was never reinstated as justice minister. Thus those who "fabricated a case against an innocent person and obstructed justice in order to pursue a purely political and ideological agenda," in the words of Ma'ariv editor Amnon Dankner, succeeded in their goal of removing Neeman.
"If there is an answer to the charges concerning the Neeman prosecution, we have yet to hear it."

2. The second example is the failure to prosecute anyone in the Yossi Ginosar affair, a tale of corruption so deep it could have kept an army of journalists busy for years. Instead it died inside of a week. In short, Ginosar was a secret agent and friend of all the Labor party makhers, who made millions in partnerships with Muhammad Rashid, a major PLO makher. Rashid and Ginosar were partners in cement and casino businesses. They were also involved in laundering hundreds of millions of dollars for the Palestinian Authority -- money which remains unaccounted for to this day -- and has very likely been used to finance terror operations. (Steve Cohen, now an advisor to Colin Powell, was also reportedly involved in this scheme.) Ginosar also served as a senior advisor to Rabin, Peres and Barak before and during Camp David. These negotiations concerned sensitive security and financial issues and Ginosar's conflict of interest could not be more blatant. Consequently, then Attorney General Elyakim Rubenstein ruled that Ginosar could not serve in Israel's delegation to Camp David. As part of massive efforts by Barak to include Ginosar, affidavits were presented denying any conflict of interests. These blatantly false affidavits were reportedly signed by Danny Yatom. Despite solid testimony by Ginosar's assistant, Ozrad Lev, no charges were ever brought against Ginosar (now deceased) for corruption, nor against Yatom for perjury. Incredibly, the case was closed due to "lack of public interest".
(An important sidebar to this story: Two other people deeply involved in the Palestinian casino business are Dov Weissglas, Sharon's right-hand man in the hitnatkut fiasco, and Martin Schlaff, the man reportedly behind the Cyril Kern scandal.)

3. Ehud Barak's cronies, Tal Zilberstein and Buzhy Herzog, set up a network of fake charitable organizations to funnel money illegally to the Barak/Labor campaign. The state comptroller, Eliezer Goldberg, who investigated the matter, called it a "trampling of the law" and fined the party an unprecedented 3.2 million dollars. Among other violations, the "charitable" organizations were used to launder illegal foreign contributions and to funnel to the campaign estate money, under Herzog's control, intended for charity. Under questioning both Herzog and Zilberstein "pleaded the Fifth". The investigation was allowed to fizzle and no charges were ever brought against any of the major players.

4. By contrast, after his defeat against Barak, Bibi Netanyahu was hounded by the police and press for moving gifts he received as PM from one warehouse to another, supposedly some sort of technical violation. (His Labor predecessors reportedly took hundreds of gifts home and in at least one case such gifts were auctioned off; none of them were even investigated.) When Attorney general, Elyakim Rubenstein declined to bring charges, Arbel let it be known far and wide that she dissented from his view and wanted charges brought. A few days ago, the supreme court, of which both Arbel and Rubenstein are now members, decided on the murkiest of grounds that the justice department is obligated to publicize Arbel's decision, despite it's being an internal Justice Department document.

5. Arbel authorized Moshe Mizrachi, head of the Israel Police international investigations division, to wiretap the phones of Avigdor Lieberman and other right-wing politicians as part of an alleged criminal investigation. As it turns out, Mizrachi taped conversations clearly unrelated to the investigation, including intimate conversations between family members and friends, and conversations between public personalities (including past and present state presidents) not suspected of any crimes. In addition, Mizrachi transcribed these conversations and placed them in a safe, presumably for use as the need and opportunity would arise. These charges were confirmed and documented in detailed reports by both Rubenstein and state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg. Arbel used her office to hamper these investigations from their inception. Finally, when Rubenstein recommended removing Mizrachi from his post, Arbel, in violation of all protocol, publicized a dissenting view, sharply critical of Rubenstein. The case against Mizrachi could not be more compelling, Arbel is herself implicated in these crimes and hence suffers from clear conflict of interest, and, in any case, had no authority to publicly dissent from the attorney general's ruling. That she did so without any fear of public criticism (indeed, the press dutifully supported her) is sorry testimony to the state of Israel's justice system.


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