Unless Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein changed his mind regarding statements he made in closed meetings lately, he believes that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's misconduct in the Zeev Ben Aryeh affair is serious. Weinstein has been very decisive about that.
Lieberman is suspected of having obtained classified information regarding an ongoing investigation against him from former Israeli ambassador to Belarus Zeev Ben Aryeh, in exchange for promotions and appointments.
Lieberman's misconduct was indeed serious, because the foreign minister failed to report an ambassador who had violated the law for him; he didn't fire the wayward ambassador; he didn't report the incident to anyone; he protected his source and committed crimes far worse than the ones attributed to Ehud Olmert's office manager Shula Zaken (who was sentenced to four months in prison, which were later commuted to community service).
During those closed meetings, the attorney-general was particularly dismayed with the fact that Lieberman promoted Ben Aryeh, naming him a diplomatic adviser and later appointing him to be Israel's ambassador in Latvia. The appointment was approved by five different mechanisms, and Lieberman intervened in each one, using all of his influence to get the obstructor of justice appointed. In each of the five stations, Lieberman avoided mentioning that this man was corrupt. At each station, Lieberman failed to mention that he himself was in a terrible conflict of interest.
As a matter of protocol, the moment an attorney-general decides that there is reason to indict a minister, the latter must resign from the government. Some 20 years ago, when the Supreme Court deliberated on the question of what kind of charges would incapacitate an elected official, the justices defined that it would be "serious charges" that put a public figure's integrity and honesty into question. When the High Court of Justice debated the appointment of former Israel Security Agency man Yossi Ginossar to the post of Housing Ministry director-general, the court rejected his candidacy citing breach of trust as a crime that can prevent candidates from serving in office, among other charges.
Lieberman has been charged with breach of trust, and the Supreme Court has already ruled that this crime is corrupt and dangerous (as did the judges in the Jerusalem District Court who convicted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of four grave counts of breach of trust). This week's ruling on the Yigal Sa'ar case (a former tax authority employee who was convicted of three counts of breach of trust and sentenced to five months in prison) intensifies the gravity of the charges against Lieberman, so the attorney-general will have trouble doing anything but to send him packing.
A source at the Justice Ministry told me this week certain things that support this assumption. "The attorney-general believes that Lieberman will make the right decision on his own," the source said. "This minister is not stupid. He has been behaving like Tzahi Hanegbi for quite some time. He won't want the attorney-general to show him the door. He will prefer to do it himself."
Q: Will this attorney-general send anyone home?
Q: Will he?
"He will, he will. He won't have a choice."
They should both go home
There are two people who need to resign from their posts this morning. First is Weinstein. He screwed up some of the cases against the foreign minister, almost as though he forgot that he is no longer a private sector defense attorney. It is hard to believe that the individuals who should resign today are the head of the State Prosecution and the foreign minister of Israel. It is incomprehensible.
After reading Weinstein's report, the question arises: is this the leader of the prosecution? This weak man is the apex of the pyramid? Is this man supposed to combat organized crime and cement the public's faith in law enforcement? The man who wrote this embarrassing, wishy washy report that looks like a legal defense? Did he really leave this monument to be his legacy for posterity? Is this how he wants to be remembered?
Yes. He is the man. So how did Weinstein bury the principal case against Lieberman? First, some of the key witnesses in the case have died since he took office. He took his time, and meanwhile people passed away. That is one winning card. Second, he assumed the role of a judge rather than a prosecutor. He entered areas that only a judge is supposed to enter: questions of credibility, awareness, impressions — in essence reviewing the defense's case. Thanks to his vast experience, he knows that the defense arguments often collapse when the trial begins, but that didn't stop him from charging ahead.
And there's more: He searched high and low for any piece of evidence, even the smallest of the small, any crack or loophole that would bolster the defense's case. He found many. He gave all the credibility to this evidence, caressed it, while pushing the incriminating evidence aside; running away from it.
For example: In the original draft indictment that Weinstein wrote, he accused Lieberman of harassing a witness. According to the investigation findings, just as the witness was heading for a meeting with the police, he was summoned for an urgent meeting by a secretary in Lieberman's firm. When he arrived at the coffee shop for the meeting, he saw the suspect, Lieberman himself, waiting for him there, much to his surprise.
How did the attorney-general explain away this incident? He dedicated all of ten lines to it in his thick report. First, he seriously argued, "this was a relatively minor form of harassment." Second, "the harassment only encompassed a meeting initiated by Lieberman, to which the witness was invited under some ruse without knowing that Lieberman would be waiting for him."
Weinstein had another incredible explanation for closing the harassment case: "No evidence was found of any additional harassment." In other words, one time is not enough. A minister in the Israeli government harasses a witness in the midst of an investigation against him? No big deal. It's not serious.