A-G Weinstein’s legacy post-Liberman defeat: It doesn’t look good

Analysis: Unless Attorney-General gets a big win in the second half of his six-year term, he won't need to worry about winning the popularity contest.

Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun )
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun )
Weinstein’s legacy took a turn for the worse with the resounding defeat of his flagship case against Yisrael Beytenu party leader (and soon to be back as Foreign Minister) Avigdor Liberman, who was acquitted on all charges on Wednesday.
This was not the first big decision Weinstein had to make for which he took criticism.
In one rare instance, some called Weinstein overly aggressive in nixing Maj- Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant’s candidacy to replace Lt.-Gen.
(res.) Gabi Ashkenazi as IDF chief of staff over possible perjury and obstruction of justice allegations.
But mostly Weinstein has been accused of being too timid, slow and soft, which came from the impression that he, a career defense lawyer, was appointed in order to soften the prosecution.
Many in the prosecution, along with many commentators, slammed him for deciding to close the multi-million dollar money-laundering case against Liberman in December 2012, after years of investigations and deliberation.
For each fact that Weinstein found imperfect in the case, making an argument for closing it, State Attorney Moshe Lador had an alternate reading which would support filing the case.
For example, Weinstein thought the case could not overcome the fact that the main witness against Liberman in the money-laundering case, “Daniella,” who resides in Cyprus and allegedly managed much of the finances of the companies under investigation, changed her testimony, which was against Liberman, to saying that she did not remember anything.
Lador believed that her change of heart was so noncredible that it would only enhance the credibility of her original story, that allegedly would have damaged Liberman’s case significantly.
Before Weinstein made the decision to close the case, he faced criticism for dragging it out for nearly three years from when his predecessor Menahem Mazuz said in 2009 he was almost ready to indict Liberman.
Weinstein was hit hard also for disregarding former state comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’s recommendation to criminally investigate former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi in the Harpaz Affair. The attorney-general only relented nearly a year later when Military Advocate-General Maj.- Gen. Danny Efroni effectively strong-armed him into investigating Ashkenazi by suggesting he would indict Ashkenazi if Weinstein did not.
But all of these cases in some way started or originated with someone else.
Weinstein “owned” the Belarus Ambassador Affair case when he decided to indict Liberman on it and separate it from the money-laundering case of which it was originally just a subcomponent.
It was his chance to show those who had called him weak-kneed and too much of a defense lawyer that he could be tough, and that he was a better lawyer than them by only fighting the battle that was a winner (as opposed to the money-laundering case, which he considered a losing case). But then he lost his “more winnable” case and lost big, making an appeal a precarious option. He forced a Foreign Minister out of his post with nothing to show for it.
Unless Weinstein wracks up a major victory in the future, his legacy may show him as being not just too timid, but also not having the right judgment to pick between a winning or losing case.
That judgment may or may not be consistent and fair, but as Weinstein said in a speech – his job is not to seek popularity.
Unless he gets a big win in the second half of his six-year term, he will not need to worry about winning the popularity contest.