Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz won a rare honor last week when a prestigious ensemble rallied around - or more precisely, against - him. This was the 12 justices of the High Court of Justice and, for a politician, Mofaz's success in achieving such a unanimous consensus is impressive.
The 12 - one justice, Mishael Cheshin, who chaired the Central Elections Committee - and 11 who supported his decision had ruled before the elections to the 16th Knesset that Mofaz could not run, and have now published their reasons. They cast a dark shadow on Mofaz and on two other senior officials, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein. Sharon invited Mofaz to join the Likud while he was still on active service, and Rubinstein did not stand guard to enforce the separation between politics and the military.
The reasons, which were written by Justice Eliahu Matza, present Mofaz as someone who preferred the good of the individual - himself - over the public interest. From now on, when it has been determined how his chief of staff behaved, only a naive soldier would believe the propaganda that encourages him to place the state, the army and the unit above his private welfare.
It is important, says Matza, "that every citizen who is asked to run should get an opportunity to realize his right." But the need to ensure "the independent nature of civil service systems" is more important. Therefore, "the strict `cooling-off period' imposed by the Elections Law on high-ranking officers in the security services" doesn't undermine equality. Mofaz petitioned the High Court as a victim of discrimination against senior officials, and emerged from it under suspicion that his political views had influenced his functioning as chief of staff.
In the words of Justice Matza: "When someone who only a few months ago wore a military uniform and bore the rank of lieutenant general or major general, or served in a similar rank in one of the other arms of the security services, runs for election, there is a suspicion that his recent decisions, made in the context of his military or security position, were influenced by his political views, which were made public when he joined a list of candidates before the elections."
The preservation of the independence of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), in essence and in appearance, "requires and justifies being strict with higher-ranking officers, who are familiar to the public."
And where was the attorney general? The High Court did what the attorney general didn't want to do, or didn't dare to do. Rubinstein did not express reservations about Mofaz's actions in contradiction of both the need for and purpose of a cooling-off period - nor about his attempt to doctor the actual date of his release from the IDF. The attorney general was dragged into the case only when he was asked to defend Cheshin's decision to disqualify Mofaz.
Rubinstein's passivity is surprising. It is in sharp contrast to his great enthusiasm for putting on trial for breach of trust the attorney suspected of tipping off the press about an investigation of criminal suspicions against Ariel Sharon. The attorney general also remained silent about the secret contract signed by businessman David Appel with Gilad Sharon, in the Greek island affair.
The spotlight is on Gilad, but the son of the foreign minister, head of the opposition and prime minister (positions held by Ariel Sharon during the period of the contract) signed in the name of Shikmim Ranch Ltd. - the center of the Shin Bet-protected life of Ariel Sharon. The ranch, whose consultation department generates more profit that any real ranch, is also primarily the prime minister, even if he is listed as a mere lodger dependent on the generosity of his sons.
If that doesn't appear to be a breach of trust - in addition to another breach of trust, according to police conclusions, concerning suspicions that he helped Appel ingratiate himself with decision-makers in Greece in exchange for beneficial activity in political elections - then it's not clear what breach of trust is.
Is avoiding immediate action against lawbreakers in the territories by the prime minister and the defense minister, who were sworn to uphold the law, not also breach of trust? Perhaps the attorney general, who is supposed to enforce the law, has forgotten that "trust" - emunim in Hebrew - is not only the name of a political settler movement he rather likes (Gush Emunim).
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