Liberman saga: Leaks, timing, elections, corruption

Analysis: Leaks and timing in regard to Liberman damaged law enforcement’s overall credibility.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman - Our word is our Bond 390 (photo credit: Flash 90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman - Our word is our Bond 390
(photo credit: Flash 90)
Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman got a raw deal.
Under investigation on and off for as long as 16 years and at the very least for 6 years, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein just happened to file the first and only indictment about a month before elections.
Well, actually, he almost filed an indictment a month before elections, but then Liberman was dragged through a media mudfest for an additional couple of weeks until the real indictment was filed even closer to the election.
Incidentally, while Liberman’s fate is far from clear, the final allegations filed against him left out most of the worst of the media mud-slinging.
That is not even Liberman’s first legitimate complaint, say commentators.
For years, a bizarre number of leaks about the investigation against Liberman convicted him or at least put him on trial in the public mind – on charges that were eventually dropped.
It is true that he was not “cleared” of impropriety in the sense that Weinstein hammered him in his report closing the major money laundering case and effectively said he was not convinced Liberman was innocent, but did not believe he could win in court.
But in the legal world, a closed case means innocent, having not been proven guilty – and that transforms all of the prior leaks into not much more than cheap character assassination.
But back to the timing of the indictment.
For a moment, what if one assumes that Weinstein really meant to announce the indictment a few months ago, but got sidetracked by the state’s overall loss in the corruption trial against former prime minister Ehud Olmert and by changes in the availability of key witnesses against Liberman? And what if the case was going to take an inordinate amount of time to put together because there were key witnesses and documents in eight other countries? And as such, what if Weinstein meant to announce the indictment a few months ago, and this was the earliest he could indict Liberman given the unexpected delays?
The problem is that even if this is true – a big if – indicting someone like Liberman right before elections when an investigation has been ongoing for so long (the smallest time period the prosecution can claim is three years, which is generally unheard of) makes the State Attorney’s Office look political at the very least.
There were so many other options. Yes, maybe the investigation needed to take a long time, but in that case, after such a long delay, why could the indictment not wait another six weeks?
Whether or not Weinstein wanted to look political in his decision-making, it indeed made him look that way, say commentators – and that is bad news for him and for how the country views law enforcement’s objectivity.
None of this confirms conspiracy theories that the state is only out to get politicians on the Right. It is unclear what Olmert is up to these days, but the Right definitely would not count him as a hero, nor would the right bear-hug former convicted ministers Abraham Hirschensohn or Haim Ramon.
But it does make law enforcement look like it is reveling in taking down political figures for winning fame, and acting beyond just professional considerations.
It also distracts the public from a problem that many commentators have noted, namely that law enforcement is at a disadvantage and needs all the public support it can get for fighting public corruption.
Whether Liberman or Olmert are guilty or not, enough politicians have been convicted and are currently on their way to being convicted that commentators say there is no question that this country has massive public corruption issues.
If Weinstein and the rest of law enforcement are going to garner public support for fighting this phenomenon, they need to look cleaner than clean in the public eye, say commentators.
Otherwise law enforcement will spend as much time defending criticism and being investigated by others as it will fighting corruption.
In the end, commentators say that the leaks and timing in regard to Liberman were not only unfair to him, they damaged law enforcement’s overall credibility and effectiveness.