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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a moving and apparently heartfelt ceremony, the Justice Ministry on Monday bade farewell to outgoing state attorney Eran Shendar and welcomed his successor, former Jerusalem district attorney Moshe Lador.
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann described Shendar as an educator and an idealist. He also praised him for his honesty and modesty.
The praise was particularly noteworthy, since in an article that he published in Yediot Aharonot shortly before being appointed justice minister, Friedmann blasted the state prosecution for indicting his predecessor, Haim Ramon, currently the deputy premier, on charges of forcibly kissing a soldier, and went so far as to intimate that the state prosecution had deliberately gone after Ramon.
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, who was responsible for choosing Shendar, said he would miss him and praised him for his "quiet and calm leadership and his impressive ability to motivate people. There were those who regarded his quietness and modesty as a sign of weakness. But such opinions did not influence him to turn away from his manner of conducting himself."
Friedmann, in welcoming Lador back to the Justice Ministry after he had spent four years as a private lawyer, also had words of praise for Mazuz. He said there could easily have been tension between the search committee headed by Mazuz to find a new state attorney and the government, which had to approve the choice. In choosing Lador, he said, the search committee had made "an excellent choice."
Friedmann's praise for Mazuz was also significant, given that several months earlier, the two had clashed bitterly over the search committee's mandate. Friedmann had demanded that the search committee recommend more than one candidate and the government should be able to recommend its own candidates if it was not satisfied with the search committee's choice. But he indicated that in choosing Lador, the search committee under Mazuz had soothed his concerns - at least for now.
During their speeches, both Mazuz and Shendar called on making the fight against crime a national mission, saying it could only be done with more funding.
"The resources that the state provides us with are insufficient," Mazuz said. "The rhetoric about waging a war on crime is not enough. We [also] need legislation and the support of the public and the Knesset. The nation must mobilize."
Mazuz said former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani was praised for dramatically lowering crime in the city. But to do the job, he said, Giuliani's budget was significantly increased and his police force, which, per capita, was already much larger than Israel's, was increased by 50 percent.
Lador said it was important to increase law enforcement in a large number of areas, including crime, organized violence, theft, illegal construction and traffic accidents. He said it was not only in the famous cases that the law must be enforced, but also in the lesser cases that do not receive publicity.
"When lesser criminals are not brought to trial and punished, it conveys a message to the public that can lead society to anarchy," he said.
The state prosecution is judged not so much by its successes and failures, Lador said, but by its public image, which is shaped by the media.
There are three distinct "stories" in every case the prosecution deals with, he said. There is the true story, in which all the facts are correct but which can never be completely reconstructed; there is the story as portrayed by the media; and there is the story based on the facts collected during the investigation.
The public bases its opinions and expectations on the story presented by the media, Lador said. The gap between what the public knows and the facts gathered by the prosecution can create impossible expectations and disappointment on the part of the public. But the prosecution can only act in accordance with the evidence.
In the future, he said, the prosecution must concentrate on improving its methods of collecting the facts so that it will come closer to reflecting the truth of what actually happened and not try to align itself with the story presented by the media.
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