Tzachi Hanegbi called on no less than Benjamin Ben-Eliezer in an interview in last week's Haaretz Magazine: Ben-Eliezer, he said, told him that if the authorities were to pick on him, Ben-Eliezer, or on Sharon, the way they are picking on Hanegbi over alleged political appointments, they would have to execute them and not just try them. That is Hanegbi's defense - everybody did it, even if there is a normative defect in his actions. As evidence he does not bring up public figures like Benny Begin, Dan Meridor, Haim Oron or Yossi Sarid, but Ben-Eliezer. Not for nothing did the swallow go to the crow.
Hanegbi's remarks are enlightening not only in themselves but because of the direct, albeit crooked, line between his moral world and attitude to public life as he reveals them in the interview, and those of Ehud Olmert and the members of his cabinet. The Hanegbi that floats between the lines recorded by Gidi Weitz is a person who says it is his right, in the area of political appointments, to do anything he wants in the ministries entrusted to him. He is a public figure who claims that he was not elected to his position to be the civil service commissioner and therefore he is exempt from ethical and moral considerations and the rules of proper administration. He is a politician who justifies hiring those he wants to reward with senior positions in the civil service, even if they come with a proven can of worms, including criminal convictions. He is a minister and MK who claims that it is his right to ignore High Court rulings when they contradict his political needs.
The court will decide Hanegbi's case and will clarify among other things the veracity of the facts he shared with Haaretz readers, including his claim that then-state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg ostensibly had a personal motive for criticizing the system of political appointments in the Environment Ministry during Hanegbi's tenure. The mood in the interview reflects Olmert's attitude (and that of most of his ministers) to the demand to place the investigation of the war in Lebanon in the hands of a state commission of inquiry.
Like Hanegbi, Olmert also claims that proper public norms are not what will dictate his behavior, but rather his arbitrary will. Like Hanegbi, Olmert also relates to the authority with which the state has entrusted him as his own private property with which he can do as he pleases. Like Hanegbi, Olmert also ignores precedents and accepted procedures in similar cases, in order to avoid an appointment that will let control over the composition of a committee or its work slip out of his hands. Like Hanegbi Olmert, too, prefers that the issues involving his conduct be examined by people he appoints, and not by an external state body.
Nothing in this analysis should cast any aspersions on the members of the Winograd committee. Its purpose is to highlight the cynical and arrogant culture of governing to which Hanegbi and Olmert are party.
To escape a credible external examination of his conduct and the functioning of the bodies under his authority during the Lebanon war, Olmert became entangled in a frenzy of actions, motivating the High Court to demand that within five days he explain why a state committee of inquiry should not be established. It is too soon to know how the justices will rule, but it is enough to look back at the leap-frogging decisions the prime minister made in this matter to be filled with shame and concern over the way the state investigates its failures in areas of prime importance. Readers of the Hanegbi interview can crack the code of Olmert's behavior: L'etat, c'est moi.
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