Consider the merciless vetting to which candidates for the US Supreme Court are subjected. Would it be possible for aspirants to win ratification if even remotely connected with the illicit fielding of undercover agents by the FBI in order to delegitimize political adversaries? Any faint hint of involvement in rogue operations would forever foil a court appointment. The minimum required of Supreme Court justices is above-reproach records.
Not so in Israel.
For openers, there are no transparent hearings to scrutinize candidates to one of the most powerful positions in the land, particularly in view of how ultra-interventionist our court is. This court, a law unto itself, also replicates itself. "A friend brings a friend" in the worst of Israel's tradition of unabashed cronyism.
So when state attorney Dorit Beinisch coveted a Supreme Court career, she needed a patron. In 1993 then-chief justice Meir Shamgar barred her entry. However, when her former law professor and mentor Aharon Barak took over as chief justice, he soon coopted her. In fact, Barak groomed Beinisch as the next chief justice, calculating that by his mandatory retirement age of 70 she'd be the most veteran justice on the bench (her stint began in 1996) and hence entitled by hallowed seniority custom to head the court.
THAT'S JUST what happened last week. Beinisch is now an august figure, and so nobody mentions her role in fielding Avishai Raviv as a Shin Bet agent provocateur, which required her approval as then state-attorney (from early 1989 through to the very end of 1995).
Raviv's covert shenanigans weren't exposed until after the Rabin assassination. He was the one who handed TV newsmen a small homemade photomontage of Rabin in SS uniform, to this day exploited to besmirch Rabin's legitimate political opponents. The assassin himself was Raviv's sidekick, goaded by him to do the deed.
Exactly 11 years ago, on September 22, 1995 - only weeks before the assassination - Israel state television titillated its viewers with particularly eerie footage shot in the wee hours in a deserted graveyard. A group of adolescents clustered around a tombstone, apparently taking part in a creepy clandestine initiation. The fact that their supposedly secret ceremony was conducted obligingly before TV crews astoundingly didn't undermine the credibility accorded the sensational videos. The camera, as we're often told, never lies.
That rite caused an undercover Jewish "terror ring," dubbed Eyal, to burst irresistibly into the public awareness. The post-assassination Shamgar Inquiry Commission would reveal it as stage-managed, a fake, a set-up.
Raviv was the chieftain who swore-in "recruits" to the bogus underground. To garnish this libelous exploit with "moral authority" he chose as his theatrical-setting the last resting place of Lehi leader Avraham "Yair" Stern, who was cold-bloodedly murdered by the British in February 1942. Raviv even had his eccentric entourage sing out Yair's anthem "Hayalim almonim" (Anonymous soldiers). The hauntingly evocative lyrics were meant to lend damning authenticity to sinister slander.
AS IT LATER emerged, this was all part of a scheme to tarnish the ideological so-called Right, to paint its adherents as wild-eyed hooligans and hothead nutcases who instigate mayhem and violence, and relish nothing more than tossing flaming matches into our regional tinderbox.
That's perhaps why TV reporter Eitan Oren's "scoop" was telecast nonstop, a fact which should have tipped off anyone familiar with the difficulty of securing coverage for bona fide stories.
Someone was clearly interested in giving Raviv resonance, and he got it unstintingly, especially when Raviv implicated Eyal in the homicide of an Arab slain by fellow Arabs in Halhoul that September.
The Halhoul incident drove the guardian of our collective conscience, Yossi Sarid, then serving on a ministerial committee overseeing the Shin Bet, to hectoringly demand the expulsion of every last Jew from nearby Kiryat Arba. He wouldn't apologize even after the truth was divulged, insisting he "didn't cast aspersions on upstanding people. There are no upstanding people in Kiryat Arba." Raviv's calumny was obviously scripted for a discriminating audience.
It would take persistent probes and obstinate litigation to belatedly wrest information about a high-level cover-up collusion. After gag orders were finally overturned, Beinisch pled ignorance. She maintained she "never permitted" Raviv to "incriminate innocent persons." We have to take her word for it, because we'll never know for sure.
WE'LL NEVER know if different tactics were sanctioned for communities, as distinct from individuals, if the prosecution merely approved defaming an entire segment of public opinion. The case against Raviv for libel and his macabre midnight pageant was closed - for "lack of public interest"- by Beinisch's best friend and successor as state attorney Edna Arbel.
During Arbel's state attorney tenure, a case against Beinisch's husband, Yehezkel, for defrauding the income tax authorities was also closed. Beinisch blamed Yehezkel's legal travails on "political antagonists" who'd stop at nothing to get at her. Again we may never know, because the tax charges were dropped.
TO BE SURE Yehezkel is still the subject of financial and felony investigations, which the prosecution is incredibly loath to pursue and apparently very eager to forget about. Nonetheless, formally at least, some allegations still hang over Yehezkel's head, a circumstance which would have made his wife's promotion to head the highest court in the land unlikely elsewhere - in Washington, for instance.
But here, as we noted, a friend brings a friend. And so, Beinisch made sure Arbel joined her on the Supreme Court. No feminist zeal was involved. Beinisch stopped at nothing to thwart the candidacies of two of the country's most esteemed law professors: Ruth Gavison and Nili Cohen.
In true oligarchies nothing is left to chance.