I asked the distinguished attorney Ram Caspi if what he was quoted in Haaretz as saying about Minister Shimon Peres was true: "You're going to end up putting Shimon Peres in the place where Ariel Sharon currently is."
This, according to the newspaper, is what Caspi hurled at State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and his staff.
"That too they leaked," said Caspi, confirming the report.
Do you really believe that there is a connection between the investigations into the actions of public figures and the deterioration of their health?
"I certainly do, and you can quote me; the deliberate leaks are what is causing that. That's how they murdered Ariel Sharon," inveighed the accomplished Caspi bitterly, carefully choosing his words.
But when there are suspicions, the authorities have to investigate, don't they? And this is so even when important public figures are the target, whether the suspicions involve illegal campaign contributions allegedly received by Shimon Peres or the Greek Island affair involving former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
"Of course they have to investigate, and make the results of the investigation public, but only after they have completed their investigation. But to leak? Under no circumstances. Deliberate leaks have been turned into a weapon turned against the person being investigated, when issues having extremely serious ramifications are involved, and even when the suspect is ultimately cleared of all charges."
STATE COMPTROLLER Lindenstrauss is currently investigating suspicions that while campaigning for the chairmanship of the Labor Party, Shimon Peres received illegal contributions to the tune of NIS 1.5 million from his millionaire buddies Haim Saban, Danny Abrams and Bruce Rappaport.
While the investigation is still going on and notwithstanding Peres's denials of the allegations, deliberate leaks have appeared in the press. The news broadcasts headlined with the story that Lindenstrauss, known as an enthusiastic headline hunter, plans to recommend that Shimon Peres be indicted for violating the gifts law, receiving bribes and breach of trust.
Peres, visibly upset and accompanied by Ram Caspi, hurried to the office of the state comptroller, who was surrounded by a dozen or so aides, and a tape recorder, and railed at him that he was sick and tired of the unfounded rumors spread about him. "I have already been accused in the past that I have an Arab mother and shares in Tadiran, but no one has ever accused me of accepting a bribe."
Peres, pained, banged his fist on the desk, got up and stormed angrily out of the room. "I was afraid he'd have a seizure," Caspi told me when recalling the event. "That was when I told them that they would put Shimon Peres where Ariel Sharon is."
INDEED, THERE is a method in this madness of many years - of malicious leaks from the police, the state comptroller and the Attorney-General's Office - at the same time that investigations are being held against public figures, such as mayors, ministers and prime ministers, even though the facts show that only rarely do these investigations produce any results.
Sometimes the leaks occur because the investigating officers or legal officials are looking to get their names in the papers - even if it comes at the expense of a suspect's good name. Sometimes journalists and police officers join forces to serve a particular political agenda and exert public and personal pressure on a suspect. They don't care if he or she gets hurt, as long as they succeed. Attorney Liora Glatt-Berkowitz admitted that she was politically motivated when she leaked a confidential document to a reporter in order to hurt Sharon's chances of being reelected in January 2003. The document related to an inquiry going on in South Africa regarding funds that were allegedly transferred by Cyril Kern to his friend Ariel Sharon, via a bank in Vienna.
Nothing came of these tall tales, with the exception of a widely reported trip by the Israeli female Sherlock Holmes, police investigator Miri Golan, to South Africa, and additional vindictive leaks, the purpose of which was to sustain the investigation endlessly under the headline: "The investigation is continuing."
Another three years went by, and on January 4, 2006, the stale story was once again reheated, this time with the flame of a another leak to the press, which came out with a banner headline: The police have informed the judge that it is investigating a suspicion that Martin Schlaff of Vienna allegedly bribed Ariel Sharon to the tune of three million dollars.
Prime minister Sharon came that day to his Jerusalem office to an abridged workday of four to five hours, at his doctors' orders, in the wake of the first stroke he had had on December 18. He dismissed the headlines with a brief comment to his aides: "Don't take that stuff seriously." But as his friend since 1954, I know that these stories hurt him very badly, cut him to the quick.
That evening, Sharon was rushed to Hadassah Hospital with another stroke. Shas leader Eli Yishai was quite right when he said the very next day, "The newspaper headlines about the suspected multimillion-dollar bribe that Sharon took are what pierced the tires of his ambulance when he was on his way to undergo a cardiac catheterization procedure."