Liberman prays at Western Wall 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court’s unqualified acquittal of Avigdor Liberman has
many implications for his political career. It also raises serious questions
regarding our state prosecution apparatus.
For 17 years, Liberman was
hounded. Police, state prosecutors and legal clerks spent thousands, perhaps
tens of thousands, of hours conducting legal research, gathering testimony and
questioning suspects. Enormous amounts of evidence were compiled. Yet, after all
this effort, the state prosecution and Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein have
nothing to show for their labors. And Liberman suffered through years of
agonizing investigations that cast doubts, apparently unfounded doubts, on his
character. The high profile nature of the case meant that Liberman and the state
prosecution were under enormous public scrutiny.
Those close to Liberman
are using the state prosecution’s resounding failure to strengthen their claim
that the entire case was nothing but a politically motivated witch-hunt. As a
result, the public’s trust in our state prosecution system has been seriously
Dragging out a case for so long is itself a
In Jewish legal sources it is referred to in Hebrew as
“inu’i hadin,” or “legal torture.” When the suspect whose case is delayed for so
long happens to be a public figure and political leader, the damage caused is
not just to the individual but to the wider public. Voters had a right to a
speedy legal process so that Liberman’s innocence, or guilt, could be determined
and an educated decision could be made on whether to vote for him. Instead,
Liberman was forced to remain under a constant state of suspicion, including
during election campaigns. The timing of some of the state prosecution’s
decisions was particularly problematic.
Last December, one month before
the national election, Weinstein decided to indict Liberman for breach of public
trust and fraud while dropping the much larger multi-million-dollar
money-laundering case that accounted for most of the 17 years of
In the wake of the state prosecution’s embarrassing
defeat in court, some have called on Weinstein to resign. The Legal Forum for
Israel and Ometz – The Movement for Quality Government have said as
The Right sees the acquittal as a vindication of the claims
Liberman’s supporters made all along, that he was being hounded because of his
On the Left, meanwhile, Weinstein and the state
prosecution have been attacked for deciding to drop the “big case” against
Liberman, effectively allowing a politician so widely bashed by the Left to
return to politics.
These attacks, while extreme and unseemly,
demonstrate how utterly the state prosecution and the attorney- general have
been discredited in the eyes of many.
Former Supreme Court justices Jacob
Turkel and Eliahu Mazza, who were both critical of the tremendous amount of time
Liberman was under investigation without being indicted, called on the state
prosecution to review its methods. Undoubtedly the state attorney and the
attorney-general must make an effort to rehabilitate its standing in the eyes of
One step in this process will be to complete the process of
establishing an external body that will supervise the state attorney, the
attorney-general and the police prosecution unit. In July, Weinstein and Justice
Minister Tzipi Livni notified the Knesset Ethics Committee that they had reached
agreements regarding the establishment of such a body.
Similar to an
ombudsman, this body will be empowered to receive complaints from the public and
will be independent of the state prosecution and the attorney- general. Its role
will be restricted to scrutinizing procedure, not decision making.
Unfortunately, these powers will not be anchored in legislation, but in a
We hope that the Liberman acquittal will add impetus to
create this body without delay. The public’s faith in the state prosecution and
the attorney-general was shaken. It must now be rehabilitated.