A-G: I won't order PM to suspend himself

Menahem Mazuz says "It's not the job of the A-G to appoint prime ministers or to dismiss them."

mazuz 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
mazuz 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said Sunday he will not order Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to suspend himself from office because of the latest investigation against him. "It is not the job of the attorney-general to appoint prime ministers or to dismiss them," Mazuz told a crowded auditorium during a symposium on political corruption sponsored by the Israel Democracy Institute. He said he had stated his position six weeks ago, soon after Morris Talansky testified in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court that he had given the prime minister envelopes stuffed with cash, and that he had not changed his mind since then, even after the latest allegations emerged of double and triple payments for some of Olmert's speaking trips. "The question of whether the prime minister, given his present circumstances of all the investigations and allegations against him, can continue to serve is a legitimate one," Mazuz said. "It is legitimate both with regard to the question of the public's confidence in the prime minister and his decisions, and with regard to the question of whether he can devote all his energy and time to a job as demanding and tough as that of the prime minister of Israel. Having said that, in my opinion this question has to be answered by the prime minister himself, and by the public and political echelons. This is not a question, at least not at this point, for a legal decision and certainly not for a decision by the attorney-general." He also denied the allegations made by Olmert's supporters that Friday's joint announcement by the police and state prosecution regarding the new investigation constituted a putsch meant to topple the prime minister. Mazuz said it was standard policy to issue an announcement to the public any time an investigation was opened against a public figure. "We routinely make an official announcement each time we open an investigation against a public figure that includes a brief summary of the allegations against him," the attorney-general said. "I think such an announcement is vital. It is part of our responsibility to the public. "In a democratic state, you cannot conduct an investigation against a public figure in secret. It is important that such an announcement be made authoritatively by those who are responsible for the matter and know the facts, rather than have a situation in which the information reaches the public from leaks, stories, [media] spins and rumors that, in the best of circumstances, are imprecise, and, in most cases, are tendentious." In other developments Sunday, the state rejected a request to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court made Friday by Olmert's lawyers demanding that all the investigative material compiled by the police be handed over to them before their cross-examination of the state's key witness, Morris Talansky, scheduled for Thursday. State Attorney Moshe Lador told the court that the new material had very little to do with the allegations regarding the relationship between Olmert and Talansky. Furthermore, the police were still in the midst of the investigation regarding the alleged double and triple payments for some of Olmert's speaking tours abroad, he added. "The transfer of material that has been collected on this issue could hurt the investigation," Lador told the court. Meanwhile, one of Olmert's most persistent critics, journalist Yoav Yitzhak, petitioned the High Court of Justice on Sunday to order Mazuz to either suspend Olmert from office or order him to show up for questioning sessions on short notice and for as much time as each interrogation requires. Until now, police have had to coordinate when they could question Olmert and the prime minister has determined the amount of time he would give to each interrogation.