Comptroller, prosecutor disagree over treatment of indicted public officials

Joseph Shapira tells Tel Aviv Bar Association conference "the public should be the one who judges them."

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
With the shadow of prosecutions of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman and around a dozen mayors hovering overhead, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira and Head State Prosecutor Moshe Lador on Monday held an unusual public bout over how the state prosecutes public officials.
The disagreement broke out at a Tel Aviv Bar Association conference over the question of whether the prosecution should try to prevent local public officials under indictment for corruption from running for reelection.
Shapira answered unambiguously that “the public should be the one who judges them.”
Lador hit back saying that “that is just slogans, the public has a very limited ability to express its criticism of the conduct of public officials.”
The head state prosecutor said that those who say that “the public will judge with its ballots, and that the public through its ballot knows how to punish” are being misleading and that “the public can only present a solution on the margins of the margins when it comes to public corruption.”
Lador added that though the prosecution had been criticized because of prosecutions leading into the elections, artificially slowing down these processes would also be an inappropriate interference in the electoral process by essentially going too easy on officials (though he did say that the prosecution thought twice about filing a brand new indictment right before an election.) He noted that Att.-Gen.
Yehuda Weinstein had explicitly ordered that political considerations, such as the timing of elections, be ignored by the prosecution, saying all that should matter is the gravity of the evidence in a case.
Shapira also discussed what he viewed as the most serious aspects of the current public corruption phenomenon.
In his opinion the problem had less to do with contributors getting kickbacks and fancy positions, and more with clever officials finding ways to tamper with the public official selection process in order to ensure that family and friends got the jobs.
Further, Shapira warned candidates competing in the upcoming October municipal elections that he would have representatives canvassing virtually the entire country’s polling stations to ensure a lack of corruption.
Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis complained that the media has unleashed an unprecedented and personal assault on judges.
His an example was a case in which three judges, recently cleared of any wrongdoing, were accused in the media of telling a woman to reenact in court how she was raped – according to Grunis solely on the testimony of a lawyer who had not been present at the hearing.
The conference also held a debate on whether Israel should adopt France’s law regarding certain public officials in which the president, for example, cannot generally be prosecuted until he finishes his term.
Environmental Affairs Minister Amir Peretz said that Israel could not implement this because whereas France has term limits, Israeli prime ministers have no term limits on their reign.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino and many other top officials also attended.