Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman got a raw deal.
investigation on and off for as long as 16 years and at the very least for 6
years, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein just happened to file the first and
only indictment about a month before elections.
Well, actually, he almost
filed an indictment a month before elections, but then Liberman was dragged
through a media mudfest for an additional couple of weeks until the real
indictment was filed even closer to the election.
Liberman’s fate is far from clear, the final allegations filed against him left
out most of the worst of the media mud-slinging.
That is not even
Liberman’s first legitimate complaint, say commentators.
For years, a
bizarre number of leaks about the investigation against Liberman convicted him
or at least put him on trial in the public mind – on charges that were
It is true that he was not “cleared” of impropriety
in the sense that Weinstein hammered him in his report closing the major money
laundering case and effectively said he was not convinced Liberman was innocent,
but did not believe he could win in court.
But in the legal world, a
closed case means innocent, having not been proven guilty – and that transforms
all of the prior leaks into not much more than cheap character
But back to the timing of the indictment.
moment, what if one assumes that Weinstein really meant to announce the
indictment a few months ago, but got sidetracked by the state’s overall loss in
the corruption trial against former prime minister Ehud Olmert and by changes in
the availability of key witnesses against Liberman? And what if the case was
going to take an inordinate amount of time to put together because there were
key witnesses and documents in eight other countries? And as such, what if
Weinstein meant to announce the indictment a few months ago, and this was the
earliest he could indict Liberman given the unexpected delays?
The problem is
that even if this is true – a big if – indicting someone like Liberman right
before elections when an investigation has been ongoing for so long (the
smallest time period the prosecution can claim is three years, which is
generally unheard of) makes the State Attorney’s Office look political at the
There were so many other options. Yes, maybe the
investigation needed to take a long time, but in that case, after such a long
delay, why could the indictment not wait another six weeks?
Whether or not
Weinstein wanted to look political in his decision-making, it indeed made him
look that way, say commentators – and that is bad news for him and for how the
country views law enforcement’s objectivity.
None of this confirms
conspiracy theories that the state is only out to get politicians on the Right.
It is unclear what Olmert is up to these days, but the Right definitely would
not count him as a hero, nor would the right bear-hug former convicted ministers
Abraham Hirschensohn or Haim Ramon.
But it does make law enforcement look
like it is reveling in taking down political figures for winning fame, and
acting beyond just professional considerations.
It also distracts the
public from a problem that many commentators have noted, namely that law
enforcement is at a disadvantage and needs all the public support it can get for
fighting public corruption.
Whether Liberman or Olmert are guilty or not,
enough politicians have been convicted and are currently on their way to being
convicted that commentators say there is no question that this country has
massive public corruption issues.
If Weinstein and the rest of law
enforcement are going to garner public support for fighting this phenomenon,
they need to look cleaner than clean in the public eye, say
Otherwise law enforcement will spend as much time defending
criticism and being investigated by others as it will fighting
In the end, commentators say that the leaks and timing in
regard to Liberman were not only unfair to him, they damaged law enforcement’s
overall credibility and effectiveness.
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