Analysis: One of the low points in Israeli law enforcement history

Prof. Yoram Shachar says if plea bargain justified, then justice system's conduct was "scandalous."

katsav 88 (photo credit: )
katsav 88
(photo credit: )
The plea bargain offered today by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz will go down in history as one of the most problematic events in the history of Israel's law enforcement, Yoram Shachar, Professor of Criminal Law at Herzliya's Interdisciplinary Center told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. In an interview with the former dean of Law at the IDC, Professor Shachar explained to the Post how he viewed the reasoning behind Mazuz's decision on Thursday morning to accept a plea bargain rather than have the president stand trial. "There can be no two ways about it," said the professor. "If the bargain is justified, then the conduct of the entire justice system in previous months has been scandalous. If not, then there can be no possible justification for the plea bargain. "The only valid reason for striking the bargain under the unique circumstances of the case could be serious deficiency [of evidence] against the president." Shachar pointed out the complete turnaround Mazuz had made since his announcement to the public that the president would stand trial only half a year ago. "I hope that the dominant reason for the bargain was indeed a lack of evidence and nothing else. But if so, very serious doubts must be raised about the handling of the case so far," said Shachar. "I therefore hope that his only consideration was indeed lack of evidence," he added. "All other considerations are neither relevant to the circumstances of the case, or far too late in the day to be raised," claimed Shachar. "If Mazuz was indeed at all concerned with the dignity of the presidency, he should have charged him exclusively on the basis of fortified evidence. Charging him like a common criminal only to obtain the best possible bargain may evince a reasonable, professional expertise but also [display] very poor public judgment. "The presidency is an institute that has never been in worse shape in the history of the state. Katsav's trial as a private citizen could do nothing to aggravate the situation," said Shachar, insinuating that the damage has already been done. Putting Katsav up for trial as president could "contaminate" the rest of the government, Shachar told the Post. The professor made it clear that certain methods used in the justice system should be avoided when dealing with certain public figures. "Pushing charges far above the available evidence is indeed standard practice in the adversarial legal system we inherited from the British. But despite common sentiment, I believe that this should not have been adopted in the case of a president," urged Shachar. "At best the result is extremely confusing to the public," he continued, "…far more so than in the case of Haim Ramon. It takes a unique talent to leave so few satisfied. If there is any mission today for the unique post of attorney-general, it is to lead, heal and clarify. "If this is the case, then Mazuz's decision is a colossal failure," concluded Shachar.