Led astray by Ramon

It's ironic that Ramon's triumph was prevented by a "compromise" submitted by political arch-foe Barak.

ramon hand on head 224 8 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ramon hand on head 224 8
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Cabinet ministers devoted nearly their entire weekly session on Sunday to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann's proposal to establish a government investigation committee to probe allegations of questionable police wiretapping, particularly against Vice Premier Haim Ramon in his recent sex-abuse case. Thankfully the matter was, instead, entrusted to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's inspection. The inordinate concentration on this affair - at a time in which the state is confronting incomparably greater tests, some existential in nature - is worth putting into perspective: The marathon cabinet session emanating from one convicted individual's private pique was longer, for instance, than the one devoted to the prisoner swap deal with Hizbullah. Indeed, many ministers attest that ministerial discussion of such duration and depth was missing during the entire Second Lebanon War. As for Israel's most intractable socioeconomic issues, they fail to win anywhere close to such consideration. NONE OF this is to excuse the fact that the police have been lax - to resort to understatement - in their use of bugging. In October 2003, then-attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein recommended the dismissal of the then-head of the police investigations unit, Moshe Mizrahi, for not only dubiously eavesdropping on the conversations of politicians and their family members, including children, but also transcribing said conversations and hoarding material which had nothing to do with any relevant suspicions. This was most glaringly the case in the prolonged, and still remarkably unconcluded, investigation into ex-minister Avigdor Lieberman's business connections. The upshot, as Rubinstein detailed, was that material - including intimate conversations, political chit-chat, tip-offs to the press, consultations with colleagues and much more of a nature that ought never to become public property - was being kept in police possession for unspecified purposes. Nobody would like to be subjected to such intrusion by Big Brother, no matter what the impetus, pretext or backing. This also applies to any politician, and it should have applied to Lieberman. Yet not only did the government ignore Lieberman's furious protests; Ramon himself was conspicuously unsympathetic to Lieberman's plight. That he should now spearhead the anti-wiretapping crusade smacks of personal interest. And that the government should be propelled to boost his cause smacks of misplaced priorities and problematic motives. It's not only different strokes for different cronies. Ramon's case is inherently different from all others pursued, justifiably or not, against public figures. He was convicted of forcibly kissing a female soldier - not a fatherly peck on the cheek - and the conviction hardly hinged on wiretapping evidence. He could have avoided trial by merely apologizing. Moreover, if he perceives himself wronged, he could have appealed the verdict. He never did. Instead he has instigated a vendetta against the court, via the cabinet. Even if Friedmann were eminently motivated to take on police and prosecution malpractices, Ramon's case should not have been his launching pad, precisely because Ramon didn't avail himself of existing legal remedies. These are the only recourse for ordinary citizens. Why should Ramon alone be eligible for preferential treatment and granted the option of a special probe? STILL, A probe by the independently minded Lindenstrauss is doubtlessly preferable to a committee appointed by Ramon's colleagues. It needs to be noted that the government committee proposed by Friedmann would have been equal in stature and authority to the one the government appointed, in lieu of a state judicial inquiry, to examine its own Second Lebanon War failings. All the above concerns are exacerbated by the ongoing showdown between Friedmann and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz which, if nothing else, further erodes the already undermined rule of law. The fact that Ramon insolently violated Mazuz's instruction that he not participate in the cabinet deliberation of his own affair further underscores his impudence. It's ironic that what prevented an outright Ramon triumph was a "compromise" submitted by his political arch-foe Ehud Barak. Such a "triumph" for crusading minister Ramon, however, would have risked a gross distortion of justice.