Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun )
There is a famous saying that goes: Sometimes you win, sometimes you
After today’s unqualified acquittal of Avigdor Liberman, the
following should be added to the saying: and sometimes you get
There is no way not to read the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court
decision in favor of Liberman and against the prosecution and Attorney-General
Yehuda Weinstein – for whom this was a flagship case – as a
With Ehud Olmert, the prosecution was seen as having lost
overall because it did not nail Olmert on the main charges and convicted him
only on a relatively minor charge of breach of public trust in the side-issue
Yet the conviction – plus the sense from the court
that it thought the prosecution had proved many facts against Olmert, but just
not enough for a conviction on the bigger crimes like the Talansky Affair – gave
the prosecution some shield from the general defeat.
not only acquitted Liberman, it adopted his side of the story on virtually all
of both the factual and legal issues.
The court found that Liberman’s
non-reporting of Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh for illegally leaking him classified
information was an ethical violation, but not criminal.
It found that he
had not campaigned for Ben- Aryeh to receive a promotion, and called into
question the testimony of Danny Ayalon against him.
The court said
Liberman’s giving Ben-Aryeh a job in his bureau was no real help to Ben-Aryeh in
salary or career track, despite Ayalon’s testimony.
In addition, the
court disregarded the testimony of former Foreign Ministry comptroller Viktor
Harel, who said Ben-Aryeh was not competent to be considered for the Latvian
ambassadorship without political help.
Wednesday’s verdict was a smashing
defeat for the prosecution and Weinstein, who closed a larger multimillion
dollar money-laundering case against Liberman (which accounted for most of the
17 years of investigations) since they viewed it as riskier, but took on the
narrower and simpler Belarusian Ambassador Affair as their flagship
Unlike the close decision in the Olmert case, the resounding defeat
also makes it less likely that the state will appeal, although Weinstein may
find it hard to back down.
Where did he and the prosecution go wrong? The
court itself gave some advice on this.
The court said the police and the
prosecution failed to even sufficiently question Ben-Aryeh about whether he
specifically told Liberman that the note from which the whole affair arose
stemmed from an Israeli investigation – as opposed to a Belarusian
It also noted that the prosecution failed to include in its
plea-bargain conviction of Ben-Aryeh a statement on that issue.
less excusable than many other errors, as the prosecution could basically put
whatever facts it wanted into the plea bargain once Ben-Aryeh agreed to plea
Next, the court slammed the police for failing to question
Ben-Aryeh’s wife and Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirschenbaum about crucial
aspects of the case, and criticized the prosecution for failing to bring forth
the agent who administered Ben-Aryeh’s polygraph.
Each error has some
legal complexity and could be explained individually, but collectively – along
with the police failing to question Danny Ayalon and other Foreign Ministry
officials about Liberman’s possibly tampering to aid Ben-Aryeh in getting the
Latvian ambassadorship, until a Channel 10 news report on the issue – the errors
gave the appearance that Weinstein and the prosecution did not do their
And aside from the perspective that no one should have even
considered filing the case, the lack of preparation is probably some of the
explanation for the blindsided defeat.
This case was likely never
intended to be filed as its own case and was never fully reviewed until late
2012, when Weinstein started to craft a compromise within the divided leaders of
the prosecution, that they would state that his decision to close the big case
was not unreasonable (though they disagreed), if he at least indicted Liberman
in the Belarusian Ambassador Affair.
Likely only after the fact, and at
rushed speed after over a decade of review of the case being closed, the
prosecution designed a strategy for this case.
All of this led not only
to defeat on Wednesday, but to Liberman cleaning house.