Why did Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein decide not to appeal the November 6
acquittal of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on fraud charges in the Belarusan
Ambassador Affair? From one perspective, the answer could be quite simple: the
Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court handed Weinstein and the prosecution a stinging
defeat, which left little room for a win on appeal.
But there were two
other points that stood out in the noticeably short and tersely worded decision
to drop an appeal.
Point one was that Weinstein said that not only new
State Attorney Shai Nitzan supported the decision, but that Nitzan’s just-exited
predecessor, Moshe Lador, opposed appealing.
This flies in the face of
all of the media predictions that the decision of whether to appeal would be yet
another public dispute between Lador (considered more aggressive in prosecuting)
and Weinstein (considered more cautious).
It also appears to contradict
Lador’s prior major stands: complete certainty not only in the Belarusan
Ambassador Affair case, but also in indicting Liberman in the multimillion
dollar money- laundering “big case” which Weinstein decided, in December 2012,
Lador’s position also does not appear to square with his highly
controversial decision to appeal the overall acquittal of former prime minister
What changed for Lador? A simple answer could be that he was
humbled more by losing the Liberman case (and by losing big) than by the Olmert
case, where he did succeed in getting at least a minor
Alternatively, knowing that he was leaving office, that
Nitzan, reportedly, was going to join Weinstein in wanting to drop an appeal, he
wanted to avoid being overruled again in a public manner.
noteworthy point was Weinstein’s citation of the court’s characterization of
Liberman’s actions as “unfit and unethical.”
There is no requirement in
explaining a decision not to appeal to the public to revisit the issue of
Also, whereas taking a position on moral issues beyond
the question of convictions is clearly part of a court’s role, many would
question whether the prosecution should make such pronouncements beyond whether
or not to file an indictment.
Surely, some of the statement was made to
save face by trying to paradoxically show that while dropping the appeal,
Weinstein still stuck to his view of the case.
But in the ongoing battle
over the prosecution’s image and whether it goes beyond its boundaries, he might
have drawn less attention to this defeat if he had kept his explanation limited
to the belief that an appeal would not succeed.