Column One: And justice for some
Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 24, 2005
Former prime minister Ehud Barak sent a jolt through the political system
when on Monday he told a television interviewer: "The Sharon family is
corrupt to its very foundations, and in any other normal country, Sharon
would have no longer been in power."
The remark was made just after Barak had participated in a meeting of his
Labor Party's Knesset faction, where he accused his colleagues of losing
their party identity and their loyalty to the rule of law as a result of
their infatuation with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Barak made these statements against the backdrop of Attorney-General Menahem
Mazuz's decision last Thursday to indict Sharon's son, MK Omri Sharon, on
several felony counts relating to his illegal financing of his father's 1999
campaign for leadership of the Likud. Mazuz declined to indict the prime
In response to Barak's criticism, his party colleagues explained that it
isn't their job to attach guilt or innocence to anyone. This job, they said,
belongs to the legal system. It is also, of course, the job of the media.
As to the media, in a program on Army Radio Tuesday, journalistic
heavyweights Eitan Haber, from Yediot Aharonot and Moti Kirschenbaum, the
former head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and current talk show host
on Channel 10, readily admitted that the press has been largely silent on
the issue of the legal investigations because it doesn't want to disturb
Sharon's plan to destroy all Israeli communities in Gaza and northern
Haber explained, "The Left, and not only the Left, is as silent as lambs
[about Sharon's criminal investigations] because it's convenient for it that
he's carrying out his political plan."
Kirschenbaum agreed, saying, "There's no doubt that the media is dealing
with the Sharon family with uncharacteristic
tenderness because of its empathy toward his diplomatic plans."
So here we have it, the watchdog of Israeli democracy, the Fourth Estate, is
willfully ignoring one of its cardinal responsibilities - holding our public
officials to standards of proper behavior in order to ensure the proper
functioning of our government. And the media is behaving thus because
apparently, the Powers That Be hate the Israeli communities in Gaza and
northern Samaria more than they love the law.
As Labor leaders Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and MK Avraham Shochat
readily explained to Israel Radio Tuesday morning, upholding and enforcing
the law is the responsibility of the attorney-general and the courts. As
politicians, they said, their job is limited to getting their political
plans implemented and this means supporting Sharon's decision to root out
all Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria.
Fair enough. At least they have the integrity to admit they will overlook
corruption if it serves their political interests.
Unfortunately, it would seem that Mazuz, Israel's chief law enforcement
officer, shares Ben-Eliezer's and Shochat's sentiments.
His decision last week not to indict the prime minister is case in point.
Omri Sharon is accused of setting up fictitious companies in 1999 through
which he funneled some NIS 6 million into his father's campaign. The process
of moving the money - illegally transferred from abroad - and its use to
fund various campaign activities, was a day-to-day process. Omri paid
service providers with checks from Annex Research, a fictitious company
(registered for him by Sharon's diplomatic representative and personal
attorney Dov Weisglass).
He then asked these service providers to equip him with fraudulent receipts
in exchange for these checks. Omri lied under oath about these payments. He
also carried out these felonious activities in his official capacity as his
father's campaign chairman, while living intermittently with his father at
their Sycamore Ranch - and updating him daily on the progress of the
According to the Political Parties Law, a candidate for office is
responsible for all activities that take place during the course of his
campaign. The burden of proving a candidate's lack of culpability for
criminal activities that were carried out by his campaign workers rests,
according to the law, on the candidate, not on the police or the state
In Sharon's case, the prime minister did not actively prove his lack of
culpability; he merely denied knowledge of the criminal activities and
claimed that he instructed his son to act lawfully.
On the one hand, this passive, declaratory defense does not meet the
dictates of the law. On the other, it strains credulity to believe that
Sharon had no idea what his son was doing. NIS 6 million is a lot of money.
Sharon has a reputation as a micro-manager. Is it reasonable to credit his
statement that he never once asked his son where all this money had come
Mazuz justified his decision to clear the prime minister by arguing that
there was insufficient evidence to indict him. But again,
this is impossible, for if there is sufficient evidence to indict Omri
Sharon, then there must be sufficient evidence to indict Ariel Sharon.
Again, according to the law, the candidate is criminally culpable for any
illegal activities that are carried out in the course of his campaign unless
he actively proves he had no knowledge of what was happening.
As Haaretz legal commentator Zev Segal put it, in acting with such leniency
against Sharon - in apparent contravention of the law - Mazuz "has turned
into the prime minister's defense attorney."
WHY WOULD Mazuz do this?
In Israel's loaded political environment it is difficult to escape the
feeling that in preferring the political survival of the prime minister to
the dictates of the law he is sworn to uphold and enforce, Mazuz, like the
media, is acting on his political sympathies rather than on his professional
This suspicion is strengthened when one notes Mazuz's unrelenting campaign
to have Likud central committee member Moshe
Feiglin barred from running for Knesset.
In an almost unprecedented move, Mazuz Monday petitioned the High Court of
Justice to overturn Justice Jacob Turkel's decision to allow Feiglin to run
for office. Feiglin was convicted of sedition, publishing seditious
materials and conducting illegal gatherings when, as leader of the Zo
Artzeinu movement in 1995, he led mass protests against the agreement to
transfer Judea and Samaria to the PLO. Feiglin since joined the Likud and
formed the Manhigut Yehudit faction inside the party which Sharon has spent
the better part of the past two years trying to purge from the party because
its members object to his policies.
In arguing against Turkel's decision, Mazuz wrote that the court should
overturn the decision "especially in light of today's flammable
circumstances, the shrillness of the public debate - which is expected to
deteriorate even further - and the implications involved in letting
[Turkel's] ruling stand in terms of the unconstructive message it conveys to
It is unclear where the legal argument is here. It is not Mazuz's job to
worry about the shrillness of debate. And what is the statute that discusses
the need for courts of law to squelch "unconstructive" messages? For that
matter, where is the legal definition of an "unconstructive message?"
Furthermore, Mazuz's pursuit of Feiglin is not an isolated action, which
would indicate that his political views dictate his how he enforces or fails
to enforce the law.
This week, two interesting stories emerged that, one could assume, would
capture the attention of a nonpartisan attorney-general.
The first was a Ma'ariv report on Sunday according to which a police agent
provocateur has been disseminating incendiary political material - such as
bumper stickers saying, "Sharon, Lily [his late wife] is waiting for you."
This is one of the messages that the media has latched onto in its
hysterical offensive against right-wing incitement. Yet here, it
works out that rather than emanating from Sharon's political opponents, it
is emanating from the police. This would appear to be an egregious abuse of
authority on the part of the police, and one that bears investigation. But
to date, Mazuz has not said a word about it.
The second was the news magazine Koteret's cover story this month. In an
investigative report, the magazine alleged that in financing his campaign
for leadership of the Yahad (Meretz) party, far-Left politician Yossi Beilin
illegally used funds donated by the EU. The report claims that Beilin
illegally transferred funds from his EU-financed "Geneva Initiative" to his
The magazine came out a couple of weeks ago. It would seem that Mazuz might
have taken an interest in the story, given that former justice minister
Beilin was largely responsible for promoting Mazuz to a leadership position
in the ministry. But again, not a word has passed through his lips about
Beilin's reported criminal activities.
It is Supreme Court President Aharon Barak who has done so much in recent
years to involve the court with the day-to-day running of Israel - and who,
since his tenure as attorney-general, has been the prime mover behind the
realignment of the office of the attorney-general with judicial rather than
the executive branch of government. Barak justified this state of affairs by
claiming that the attorney-general's subordination to elected officials
prevented him from carrying out his duty as chief law enforcement officer in
a dispassionate, independent and professional manner.
Unfortunately, from Mazuz's behavior, it would seem that just the opposite
has occurred. The more independent the attorney-general has become from any
political authority, the more politicized and less professional the office
There can be no doubt that having a professional and independent state
prosecution is an essential component of democratic governance.
Unfortunately, what we see is that in the name of "professional
independence," it is precisely this component of the prosecution that is
disintegrating before our very eyes.
In light of the fact that our media unabashedly admits to willingly
surrendering professional standards for political purposes, the absence of a
professional prosecution is all the more disturbing.