(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
"The Justice establishment is conducting a fight over Israel's image, and if we lose, Israel will become a third world country," Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said on Tuesday during a lengthy interview on Channel 1 about the numerous corruption scandals soiling Israeli politics.
Mazuz went on to say that, despite the cases of corruption currently making the headlines, Israel was far from a country in which corruption was a part of every day life.
Katsav's attorneys slam Mazuz for leak
Regarding the allegations of embezzlement against Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson, Mazuz said that if the finance minister is indicted, "it is his duty to quit."
"The investigation is set to continue, and once things become clear, then I need to take a stand," he added.
The attorney-general did not discount the possibility that Hirchson was being set up by someone who wanted to see him dismissed from his position. "In every ministry, this possibility exists," he said, emphasizing, however, that there was no special reason in this case to consider that option. "As the proofs come together and become more widespread, the chances of a setup become slimmer," said Mazuz.
Mazuz said that the prime minister was in no way whatsoever connected with the Hirchson scandal.
The attorney-general added that the allegations against the prime minister were all part of one criminal case, and he dismissed the suggestion that the investigation should be postponed until Olmert completes his term as prime minister.
"He won't serve better if the public knows that there are allegations against him that are not being investigated," he said.
Responding to a suggestion that Olmert should step down, Mazuz said: "I think the prime minister needs to decide how appropriate he is to serve as a public servant."
"It his duty to be honest with himself. If he thinks he cannot serve properly, he must quit."
Later in the interview, Mazuz said that he and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann had healthy differences of opinion.
"He has his own outlook, and we don't have to agree on everything. It is his right to have his own agenda," he said
Regarding the sexual assault case against President Moshe Katsav, Mazuz said that the hearing wasn't "just a show."
"It is not that rare that following a hearing, decisions are changed. The possibility of a change to an indictment exists in every case."
Mazuz said that the material in the Katsav case was "very serious," adding that in the speech delivered by Katsav a few weeks ago, the president said "some things that were inaccurate and incorrect."
The attorney general explained that he had told Katsav that he had no intention of leaking their initial conversation about the allegations to the media, but when the president released a statement saying that it was just a routine meeting, he had to set things straight.
"In several instances throughout the case, he has made statements which are incorrect," continued Mazuz.
Regarding former justice minister Haim Ramon, Mazuz, despite conceding that the case was made more serious than it actually was, said it had to be brought to court because of all the contradictory accounts of the incident with the female soldier.
He said there was no ill will between Ramon and the Justice establishment.
Regarding whether he thought Ramon could return to a government ministry, Mazuz said: "The prime minister needs to consider if he is interested in someone who has committed an offense."
Mazuz stood by his decision not to call for a state commission of inquiry into the shortcomings of the war in Lebanon, saying that "in every country it is the prerogative of the prime minister to decide how to probe the government's actions.
"I don't believe that if the justice establishment gets involved in every case, it will necessarily lead to better decisions," he continued.
He went on to say that the protocols of the Winograd Committee should not be published before the final report.