We are told that the attorney-general is now poring over documents from
investigations into Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s business practices
going back to 1997. The aim is to decide whether to indict him on a series of
charges – among them money laundering and fraud and breach of trust, emanating
from illegal receipt of funds and concealing financial activity from state
There are varying versions of how long this investigation
has been underway. According to some, the police had already targeted Lieberman
once he quit his post as director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office over 14
years ago. He then established two trading companies, one homed in
The second version claims that police trained its sights on
Lieberman only in 1999, meaning that the investigation is merely 13 years of
age. The most minimal estimate, the one the police proffers, is that it was on
Lieberman’s tail just since 2001.
Regardless of which account we
subscribe to, there’s no denying that this is an inordinately lengthy probe,
never mind its ultimate outcome.
We certainly have no way of judging
whether Lieberman is guilty or innocent, and we have no intention of weighing in
on this issue one way or the other. Yet what should be of interest to every
citizen is the spectacle of what is incontrovertibly a police project of
exceptionally excessive duration, directed doggedly at a given individual, but
with mutating accusations against him.
It needs to be noted that big guns
were aimed at Lieberman for supposed infractions of campaign-financing
regulations by his party Israel Beiteinu. That case evaporated along the way but
the investigators changed their tack and began looking for other
For a time bribery charges hung over Lieberman’s head, but
these too vanished. That’s when investigators homed in on companies that are no
longer under Lieberman’s name but which the police maintain he owns and operates
Much too close for comfort, the above resemble fishing
expeditions, even if in the end they net a catch. Moreover, unseemly methods
were employed over the years in the course of this inquiry.
It isn’t just
our say-so. Already back in 2003, then-attorney- general Elyakim Rubinstein, now
a Supreme Court justice, published a scathing report exposing police
misconduct. Rubinstein recommended removing head of the Police
Investigations Unit Moshe Mizrahi from his post. He charged that Mizrahi
brazenly extended permissions he obtained to bug politicians’ phones and
illicitly eavesdropped on their conversations and on those of any member of
their family, including children.
Mizrahi, now seeking a slot on Labor’s
next slate of Knesset candidates, was further accused of transcribing those
conversations, as well as other material, and hoarding everything for
undisclosed future use – including what by no stretch of the imagination had
anything to do with the investigation purportedly in progress. Mizrahi’s
foremost victim was Lieberman, but he wasn’t alone, something which should send
additional shivers down all liberal spines.
Rubinstein said that his
findings made his hair stand on end: 70 percent of what Mizrahi had transcribed
of Lieberman’s conversations and faxes was wholly irrelevant to what he was
ostensibly investigating. Rubinstein described himself as “sickened to see the
nature of the material” Mizrahi saw fit to keep, after he unlawfully transcribed
what shouldn’t have been eavesdropped upon. Mizrahi then illegally
secreted these illegal transcripts.
Police transcribers under Mizrahi’s
command balked when asked to record conversations of spouses, youngsters,
elderly parents, doctors, service-providers, journalists, friends and casual
acquaintances. Transcripts of idle chatter and intimate talk remained in
Mizrahi’s safe, some bound in files labeled “political.”
This is only
part of what ought to engender great unease among all who cherish the rights of
even those politicians whom they don’t necessarily relish.
No matter how
Lieberman’s particular saga eventually evolves, it should lead to clear legal
curtailments on the length of time in which our law-enforcers can pursue a given
suspect or case. It cannot be that the police and prosecution would usurp over a
decade of anyone’s life because of hunches, even if said hunches are in the long
run borne out after all.
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