Paz-Pines: Olmert Weakening Rule of Law, by Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post]
Labor leadership candidate Ophir Paz-Pines launched his campaign on Wednesday by accusing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of being corrupt, Defense Minister Amir Peretz of causing damage and his party of being “addicted to power.”
“Olmert saying that he had no agenda was one of the worst things a prime minister has ever said, especially at a time when mothers are sending their children to war,” Paz-Pines said, referring to a statement Olmert made in September.
Paz-Pines outlined four steps Olmert took that proved that he in fact did have an agenda – against the legal establishment and the rule of law. Paz-Pines listed Olmert’s blocking him from joining the judicial selection committee, his removal of Meir Sheetrit from the Justice Ministry, his appointment of Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and his failure to fill vacancies in the courts.
“Olmert’s agenda is to weaken the rule of law and erase the legacy of former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak,” Paz-Pines said. “Labor needs to fight against this agenda and against corruption in Israel.”
Paz-Pines vowed that if he won the May 28 Labor primary, he would appoint as defense minister either of the two current front-runners in the race, former prime minister Ehud Barak or Labor MK Ami Ayalon. He said it was impossible for one man to serve as both defense minister and Labor leader as Barak and Ayalon aim to do.
“After the Winograd Commission and Amir Peretz, Israel will need a full-time defense minister to fix things,” Paz-Pines said.
Although he intends to keep the party in the coalition if elected, Paz-Pines warned that Labor should not be in the government at any price. He said that since the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, the party leaders behaved as if they were “addicted to power.”
On diplomatic issues, Paz-Pines called for a peace conference with the United States and all the moderate Arab countries to find a regional solution to bring Middle East peace, based on the Saudi Plan that calls for Israel to withdraw to pre-1967 lines in return for peace with the Arab world.
“The Iranian threat poses both great danger and a great opportunity to make peace with moderate Arab countries that are also threatened by Iran,” Paz-Pines said. “We should talk to [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas, but we can’t progress with him alone, because of the burden of Hamas on him. The Arab countries want to make peace with Israel on the basis of the Saudi Plan without [giving Palestinian refugees] the right of return.”
In a meeting with Jerusalem Post editors and reporters on Tuesday, Paz-Pines said he was concerned about the possibility of corruption in the State Attorney’s Office. Calling himself an adherent of the legal system but not a blind adherent, he said Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz had made courageous decisions since his decision to exonerate former prime minister Ariel Sharon in the Greek Island Affair, which Paz-Pines said was mistaken.
Are we losing our minds? I once again admit – for the last time, because I’m sick and tired of doing so – that the prime minister is a friend of mine. After making this full disclosure, I will take the liberty to speak my heart.
In no democratic country in the world is there or has there ever been a situation in which the president of the country is suspected of rape, the prime minister is under investigation, the finance minister is suspected of having taken a bribe, the justice minister has been convicted of a crime, the armed forces chief of staff has been forced to resign, the integrity of the candidate for commissioner of police has been placed in doubt, the tax commissioner has resigned as a suspect in criminal activity, the chairman of the parliament Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is under suspicion of breaking the law.
Can this be? Is it possible that all our government leaders are unprincipled, unworthy failures? Are we really that much worse than everyone else? Is our government really rotten from head to toe, especially the head?
It is clear that at least some of the accusations are justified. At the same time, it is obvious that we are witnessing a witch-hunt, something reminiscent of the atmosphere in the United States during the McCarthy era, when no civil servant or public personality knew when his head would roll. In this devil’s dance, the media is playing the role of the Inquisition.
Perhaps the current wave of purges is proof of the strength of Israeli democracy, in which all are equal, but in which the chief politicians are less equal.
Perhaps the heads that roll will be replaced with pure heads. Perhaps the public finds satisfaction in the devil’s dance being performed before it, although there is a danger that if the man or woman in the street becomes convinced that all the leaders are corrupt, they will refuse to play the patsy and will join in the circle of corruption.
Even if we assume that our national institutions are strong enough to withstand these shock waves, even if we ignore the damage being caused by the fact that the entire national leadership of all our major national institutions is preoccupied most of the time with collecting evidence, preparing for hearings, checking old documents and reconstructing events that may or may not have occurred; even if we take pride that what is happening is proof that Israel is a country in which the rule of law dominates – it will be difficult to liberate ourselves from the feeling that we are at the height of a whirlwind that not only benefits no one, but in fact, is causing great harm.
While the train of justice may be rushing in the right direction, it has also derailed.
Israel’s top leadership has been taken over by an atmosphere of fear – personal fear (who will attack me and when), media fear (when will some reporter decide that it’s time to destroy me), fear of making decisions (they may accuse me of something), fear of mudslinging (if I fire someone, she may accuse me of touching her), fear of making slight slips (someone gave me a bottle of wine), fear of accepting invitations (I may have to pay), fear of social gatherings (who knows who will be there) and fear of fear itself (as Roosevelt put it).
As someone who has never been the target of a criminal investigation, I permit myself to argue that the damage caused by Great Saints is sometimes greater than that of the little sinners. I am sure there will be those that will accuse me of defending corruption.
No, I’m not defending corruption. I’m defending sanity.
The writer is a former MK and justice minister.
What are their points; Ophir Paz-Pines and Tommy Lapid? The current reality of law and justice in Israel seems obviously, Rule of Law according to agenda. Those who complain that Olmert’s appointment of Professor Daniel Friedman was “Olmert’s Revenge” for the conviction of Haim Ramon for sexual harrassment and for all of the case files opened against him must weigh this against his proposed reforms which apparently would clip the wings of the Barak-Beinisch Supreme Court. These are by no means easy scales.
But the question must be asked, what are Friedman’s overiding principles governing his policies and are these principles compromised by ulterior motives, i.e. possible sidetracking of investigations and
court litigation against the prime minister? Does this then make him an enabler, of further corruption in order to perpetuate the power and evil plans of a morally bankrupt prime minister and government as well as the continuance of a morally bankrupt and anti-Torah governing system?
Are we witnessing a replay, on a grander scale, of Bibi’s abortive appointment of Roni Bar-On as Attorney General allegedly to facilitate the closing of cases against Aryeh Deri?
One will recall that, as recounted in the Time magazine article of April, 1997 linked above;
Netanyahu appointed a Likud Party crony named Roni Bar-On Attorney General. He was so manifestly underqualified that his appointment set off a torrent of public criticism, and Bar-On instantly resigned without ever visiting what would have been his office. Two weeks later, an Israeli TV station reported the whole thing had been a secret deal cooked up by Aryeh Deri, political leader of the Orthodox religious party Shas and a partner in Netanyahu’s coalition. Deri allegedly demanded that Bar-On be installed as Attorney General or his two party members in the Cabinet would block the government’s agreement to pull Israeli troops out of Hebron. The darker side of the deal was that Deri reportedly expected Bar-On to arrange a plea bargain that would painlessly end Deri’s long-running trial on bribery and fraud charges.
Netanyahu hotly denied any wrongdoing and demanded a formal investigation. The national police conducted one, interviewing 60 witnesses over 12 weeks. That culminated last week in a 995-page report, which recommends that charges of breach of the public trust, a criminal offense, be brought against Netanyahu, his chief of staff, Avigdor Lieberman, and Justice Minister Tzahi Hanegbi. The investigators also said Deri should be charged with extortion, but they apparently found no compelling evidence against Bar-On, the hapless pivot man.
And as for discredited Tommy Lapid and his distorted sense of law and justice which rationalizes corruption and graft and equates rooting out corruption as a McCarthy era witchhunt, his very Op-ed begs the question of his own prejudice and agenda; after all, as he himself admits, “the prime minister is a friend of mine.”
Can we tolerate governmental and legal systems and processes which are corrupt and graft-ridden, protexia and self-interest-ridden from top to bottom? When Jewish lives and national survival are at stake
can we tolerate institutionalized moral bankruptcy?
And can we, the Jews, remain passive and silent and not act , thus enabling continued shenanigans at our expense? MB