The prosecution (never) rests
In his three years as state prosecutor, Moshe Lador has already handled the most explosive corruption cases in Israel's history, bringing down a former president and a former prime minister, among many others. Is the foreign minister next?
uring one of my meetings last week with State Prosecutor Moshe Lador in his Jerusalem office, an assistant entered with a document for his immediate perusal. It was the response of the attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, to the High Court of Justice in the case of the chief of staff-designate, Major General Yoav Galant. Lador wrinkled his brow, pushed his glasses onto the top of his head, scanned the document for a time and inserted corrections. It was the document that sealed Galant's fate; his appointment was soon canceled.
Even before Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Galant's appointment, allegations against Galant were forwarded to Weinstein and Lador by Michael Eitan, the minister for the improvement of government services. Galant, it was said, had seized property which was not his own in Moshav Amikam, the cooperative village in which he lives, and he had allegedly given misleading information in court. Despite this, Weinstein and Lador decided to defend Galant's appointment in the High Court. Enter the state comptroller, Judge Micha Lindenstrauss. His office had received complaints against Galant two years earlier, and he announced now that his findings cast doubt on Galant's behavior. The judicial system and the defense establishment were thrown into turmoil.
Why were you so quick to defend Galant's appointment before the High Court?
Lador: "We were mistaken, and we admitted the mistake."
Minister Eitan supplied you and the attorney general with material about Galant months ago. Examining the material beforehand would have spared everyone much embarrassment.
"I accept that it is incumbent upon us to examine responsibly and cautiously the material on the basis of which we represent the state in court. We know today that there is a disparity between our information and our basic assumptions in the Galant episode, and the information we received later.
In this case, should the attorney general and the state prosecutor be subjected to criticism?
"I'm not sure. The Turkel committee [which vets senior civil service appointments] examined the material and then reexamined it at the initiative of the state prosecution. Their conclusion was that there was no obstacle to Galant's appointment."
The Turkel committee thereby proved that it is not competent to carry out this task.
"The Turkel committee does not have sufficient investigative means to examine candidates. We need to create a far more efficient apparatus, part of which would be, for example, to make the committee aware that it has to apply sharper antennae."
The state comptroller is effectively filling a vacuum - areas that the law enforcement agencies have abandoned. Is it even within his purview to examine matters relating to Galant's house?
"I cannot give you a good and learned answer on that," Lador says with uncharacteristic caution and conciseness.
The Galant case was not the first recently to generate a conflict between the judiciary and the watchdog. Weinstein and Lador had announced that they found no impediment to the appointment of Yohanan Danino as the commissioner of police, despite a complaint about him that the State Comptroller's Office is still investigating. It is alleged, for one thing, that he was involved in police blunders that led to the murder of two undercover agents who had infiltrated underworld organizations in 2006.
"There is all the difference in the world between the Danino case and the Galant case," Lador says. "In regard to Danino, no one imagines that there is any personal benefit involved; at most, this is about a professional decision of one kind or another that Danino made when he was head of the Investigations Branch.
"Almost all the decisions Danino made were discussed with me, and to the best of my understanding they were correct. I felt for Danino when I saw the [media] carnival around him even before the facts had been clarified, as I feel for others who endure the same ordeal. The attorney general was absolutely right to allow the government to make the appointment. From our point of view, a delay was in no way justified."
Don't the Galant and Danino cases show that we are living in a crazy era of excessive "judicialization"?
"Those are two cases of excessive judicialization, which perhaps could not be avoided; apparently it is impossible to make a senior appointment without someone questioning it, and then people start probing the past of all the candidates. Regrettably, in our country the review apparatuses are not the most sophisticated. The result is that a cabinet minister can be appointed instantly. Just two or three days passed from the moment the idea was conceived of appointing Prof. Daniel Friedmann minister of justice [in the government of Ehud Olmert] until the actual appointment, and he did not go through the [typical] process undergone by a candidate for meaningful office, such as - in the case of the United States - Senate [confirmation] hearings. It's possible to think about something similar that would be suitable here, a more sophisticated apparatus than exists now."
The bigger they come
Until six years ago, Lador lived in Jersualem - he now makes his home in Moshav Shoeva, a rural community not far from the city - and used to walk his dog every morning on the streets of the capital. One day he walked to the Holyland residential housing project, then in an advanced stage of construction. "At one point I even considered buying an apartment there," he relates. "I didn't grasp the dimensions of the project, and in fact the true scale is immense. You have to understand that the volume of construction that you see today constitutes only 38 percent of the planned size of the monster."
Lador visited the project again last April, ascending to the penthouse apartment of the veteran criminal lawyer Yair Golan to console him on the death of his wife. At the time, Lador, the top members of his staff and the police were secretly investigating the biggest corruption scandal in Israel's history, involving none other than the Holyland project. He had already met in his office with the man - whose name cannot be published because of a gag order - who exposed the affair and afterward became the state's witness: a fleshy, aging businessman who acted as a liaison between ravenous real estate developers and politicians and public-sector officials who had a fondness for envelopes stuffed with dollars. Lador recalls the conversation he had with Golan during the condolence visit.
"He has a gorgeous balcony with a view of the whole of Jerusalem," Lador says. "I asked him whether he planned to build a pergola on the balcony. He replied, 'You're asking about a pergola?! I can't get a permit to install solar-heating panels on the roof, because it's contrary to the planning and building laws - and laws must be upheld.' I knew by then that the Holyland affair would hit the headlines in four or five days."
Indeed, a few days later the police, with great fanfare, arrested politicians and officials, tycoons and machers (big shots ) who were suspected of giving and receiving bribes amounting to millions of dollars to promote huge real estate developments in the country - above all, the notorious Holyland project. One of those detained was former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, who was suspected of receiving bribes - and, as it happened, hired the services of attorney Yair Golan. The police completed the investigation a few months ago and recommended that serious charges be filed against Ehud Olmert, former prime minister and former mayor of Jerusalem; his bureau chief Shula Zaken, businessmen Danny Dankner, Hillel Cherny and Avigdor Kelner, and many others. By this coming Pesach (mid-April ), Lador thinks, decisions will be made about whom to indict and for what. (Lador is the senior judicial figure involved in the case, after Attorney General Weinstein recused himself because he formerly represented Ehud Olmert as a private attorney. )
"I don't think that any affair in Israel even approaches the scale and level of the corruption that was investigated in this case," Lador says. "There is a long list of events that add up to a total and systematic picture that truly turns the [Holyland] hill into a construction site that rises in terms of its gravity to high heaven, so to speak."
Why is the identity of the state's witness still classified? Does he fear for his life? Anyway, everyone who needs to know, knows who he is.
"He came out against the most powerful people in Israel and shattered the Holyland project with his testimony. So he has enemies from here to eternity. It's true that many people know who he is, but we thought that in the face of the public's right to know - a right that was realized almost in full - what still remains [unknown] serves a useful purpose."
The state's witness has a very dubious record, as a key liaison between big capital and government, as a dispenser of bribes at the top.
"It's true that these people were never 100 percent honest and were sometimes very significant offenders, and from certain points of view this man is a central offender in the affair."
Lador has known Ehud Olmert for many years, from the time Lador was Jerusalem district prosecutor and Olmert was the city's mayor (a position he held for about a decade, beginning in 1993 ). In one instance, Lador handled a complaint that Olmert filed against a former senior police officer, Meshulam Amit. Once, after Lador watched a successful appearance by Olmert on the BBC program "Hard Talk," he called the sharp-tongued politician to congratulate him ("Olmert is a tremendous debater" ). He still has the letters of congratulations he and Olmert exchanged when they entered and left various senior posts.
The two held key offices in the divided and conflicted city for many years. Olmert resigned as mayor toward the end of 2002 and parachuted straight into the government of Ariel Sharon. About a year later, Lador resigned as district prosecutor and entered private practice, after more than two decades in the state prosecution. Olmert was elected prime minister in 2006, and a year and a half later Lador was appointed state prosecutor. He is halfway into his term of office. It's been three years since he became state prosecutor and in three more years he will remove the prosecutor's robe. His critics point to two shortcomings: a centralistic management style and a tendency to automatically protect prosecutors, even those who are resoundingly rebuked by the courts.
Pinned to the wall
When Lador took up his post, Olmert was under investigation in several cases. While probing one of them, the police came across entries in the calendar of Shula Zaken, Olmert's bureau chief, which raised suspicions that an American businessman named Morris (Moshe ) Talansky was transferring money to the prime minister.
At 6 A.M. one day in April 2008, officers from the national fraud investigations unit knocked on the door of Talansky's Jerusalem home and took him into detention. Talansky proceeded to spill the beans about his relations with Olmert. Lador, in consultation with the attorney general at the time, Menachem Mazuz, decided to have Talansky take the stand in an early deposition the following month.
The decision unleashed a torrent of criticism against Lador, some of it from unexpected quarters. "It seems to me that State Prosecutor Moshe Lador hasn't yet provided a good answer to explain Talansky's early deposition," Ilana Dayan, host of an investigative television program, told Ari Shavit in an interview published in Haaretz Magazine (in Hebrew) last November. "I think Lador should be pinned to the wall in order to extract from him the real reason for the decision to take an early deposition from Talansky." To which Lador retorts, "Okay, pin me to the wall."
Wasn't that unwarranted intervention in the political game? After all, the result was to oust a serving prime minister.
"At the point of time in which we decided to take Talansky from his home, question him and get his version of the affair, it was the right decision. Our impression then was that the material was extremely problematic. Our perception of him at the time was as an American Zionist - and it's not important whether he really is that - who was suspected of padding an Israeli public figure with cash and also in many other ways, thus making it possible for him to get along. And by the way, he's not the only one, as you know. You are familiar with the story of Joe Almaliah [an American businessman who is a friend of Olmert's]. It's an extraordinarily scandalous story. It's alleged that in 1993 Almaliah gave Olmert $75,000 as a loan. At the time, that was enough to buy an apartment in Kiryat Hayovel [a Jerusalem neighborhood]. I have never received so much as a wafer from my friends, okay? To this day the loan hasn't been repaid. I've never heard of loans like that." Lador is not prone to grand gestures or emotional outbursts, but in this instance he could barely conceal the anger in his voice.
"I return to Talansky. When we received the material, we thought that if we were forming a picture that might lead to an indictment further down the road, we would not be able to offer ourselves and the public an answer as to why we didn't make use of an existing legal tool, namely obtaining the man's version here and now. Afterward, because the public zoomed in on Talanksy's initial account to the court and raised the profile of the story to surprisingly high peaks, a dynamic was created in the political arena that led to Olmert's leaving office. That is something one can never really anticipate. What do you want from the judicial system? Where, at what point in time, at what juncture was a decision made that was not right and proper? People didn't understand why we were concerned that Talansky would not come back [to Israel from the United States] to testify again. Well, the fact is that he did not come back.
"My friend Yehoshua Reznik [a former deputy state prosecutor], whose firm represented Talansky, said in an interview at the time: 'It is hallucinatory to believe that Talansky won't return.' He pointed an accusing finger at me. I read the newspaper in the evening. Sixteen hours later, a letter was placed on my desk from Reznik's law firm stating that Talansky would not be coming back."
What is Olmert's situation in the Holyland case?
"He is a certain figure in the story."
Isn't what differentiates Olmert from the other suspects the fact that he was at the top of the hierarchy, and as such had the greatest influence?
"You are not mistaken. The more senior you are, the greater your influence and the graver your offense, if you commit an offense. That still doesn't say anything - not about the facts in this case, about his direct or indirect involvement, or about Olmert's awareness, and it says nothing about the admissible evidence with which we can go to court in this case. There were quite a few people who talked during the interrogations, about whom we needn't think twice concerning their involvement in various events, some of them criminal; and there were people who did not cooperate or who cooperated in a limited and biased way, for their own benefit and the benefit of others. We must always go to court with a reasonable expectation of getting a conviction."
Last week, Lador took part in a three-day marathon of discussions, the first of its kind, held in a hotel and led by the attorney general with all the top-ranking figures in the State Prosecutor's Office in attendance. The purpose was to reach a final decision on the most volatile case of all: the Avigdor Lieberman affair. It's unlikely that an ordinary citizen would have the benefit of a consultation of experts at this level; but the foreign minister is not an ordinary citizen.
About five years ago, the fraud investigations unit launched an investigation of Lieberman on suspicion that while serving as an MK and as a cabinet minister he continued to control foreign companies to which millions of dollars were funneled, in part by people with vested interests such as the tycoons Mikhail Chernoy and Martin Schlaff. In August 2009, the police recommended that Lieberman be tried for a range of offenses, including receiving bribes, but Weinstein and Lador have been dragging their feet on the issue for months.
"This case has been going on for far too long and the process is far slower than any of us would want," Lador admits. "Every examination of a criminal case is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle is sometimes similar to the ones that my grandchildren amuse themselves with - those of eight pieces - but sometimes it consists of thousands of pieces. In the Lieberman case it's far more than 2,000 pieces, most of which are not in Hebrew and not necessarily in English, either. Okay? Well, this is one of the hardest puzzles to put together that I have encountered in recent years."
"Our evaluation is that the frame completely justifies the collection of the pieces - in other words, the suspicions justified the effort. But as in other cases in this area, when you get to the people and ask them to give their version, they do not cooperate, either because they are personally involved, because someone got to them before we did and briefed them, or for other reasons."
In other words, the episode in which Lieberman received a classified document from the Israeli ambassador to Belarus containing sensitive and secret details from the investigation against him, is only a symptom of a broader phenomenon of attempts by suspects to obstruct an investigation?
"I think you got an answer. In this case, too, we are not exactly experiencing the joy of having people tell us, 'I very much respect the Israeli investigative authorities, I want to tell you the whole truth and you are looking at someone who has not been influenced by anyone.' This is an investigation in which it's hard to find the pieces to the puzzle over the course of years. And it's not the first time: in investigations that were conducted against Lieberman in 1998-1999, we also couldn't get to the bottom of certain events."
You surely understand that the trust of ordinary folk in the state prosecution declines when they contemplate the intolerable length of time taken to reach a decision on the Lieberman case.
"I agree absolutely, and I would have a problem arguing with you on that."
Is a three-day discussion by high-ranking figures in the state prosecution about a case involving a high-ranking figure further proof of the death of the 'Buzaglo test,' which holds that the judicial system should treat public figures as it does ordinary people? After all, if it were the treasurer of the Haifa municipality you wouldn't be hesitating and holding marathons.
"We tell ourselves - and I hope it is quite close to reality - that there is no difference, in terms of collecting evidence, between a president or prime minister and any ordinary citizen. Clearly, we do our best in every case. But after all, we are human, and for cases involving high officials, the significance for the state is different. The collection of evidence, the analysis, the considerations and the details in such cases are wider and more massive, no doubt. In the case of Katsav, for instance, we investigated people who may have been only distantly connected with the complainants, reaching wider circles than we would have done in any other sex offense case.
Betting on the outcome
A few weeks ago, as Judge George Karra read out the verdict against former president Moshe Katsav, the phone of rape victim A., from the Tourism Ministry, rang in her north Tel Aviv apartment. On the line was Lador. "I called to close a circle that started on the day I met you," he said.
Lador entered office after Mazuz signed the problematic plea bargain with Katsav. However, after Katsav renounced the deal, Mazuz and Lador had to make a decision on the issue, which had split the state prosecution for years.
"The Katsav affair did not have a completely smooth course through the organization and continues to stir dispute within it," Lador admits. "By that, I am referring not only to the group of people who dealt with it, but to the entire organization, including those who are not familiar with the file."
Did you agonize before making the decision?
"No. I was convinced that the decision was right and I fought for my opinion persistently and at length, investing hundreds of work hours to bring about a decision to file the indictment."
A. sent a New Year's card to the president after the rape and denied that she had frequently called the President's Residence, even though it finally transpired that she had. How do you decide when to believe her?
"A. from the Tourism Ministry and the other complainants did not prepare for a rainy day like Katsav did. In fact, it's amazing to see how Katsav kept evidence that would serve him further down the road, should any of them - A. from the Tourism Ministry or any of the other women - later make allegations against him. Our perception of the card that A. sent was that it truly did not serve Katsav's cause - if you read it correctly and see what it contains and what it does not.
"Like all people, victims and witnesses forget events that happened years earlier, and the picture of reality in their consciousness becomes fixed and almost fossilized. Similarly, when the victims against whom the most serious offenses were committed give their version to the police, they sometimes consider what will be good for them to say and what will not be good, what will serve the account and what will not. So, when she is asked, 'Did you write a letter?' she denies it. Afterward, after she has already stated that he committed very serious acts, she insists that she could not possibly have written it, because she doesn't want her account to fall to pieces. She markets the story optimally. Witnesses subsequently pay a very steep price for that. The task of the prosecutor and of the judge is not necessarily to ask himself whether everything the witness or the victim said is true, but whether behind the story, in the big picture, the parts that interest us reflect the truth."
Didn't Menachem Mazuz understand all that when he decided to sign the plea bargain with Katsav, which today looks like a joke that makes no one smile?
"The plea bargain was not a joke. The system at the time was headed by Mazuz, who I believe is a prodigy, absolutely at a phenomenal level, a superb jurist with a tremendous capacity for work. He knew and recognized the truth no less acutely than the others in the discussions. No one is more experienced in all facets of the law, including criminal law - despite what people say about him - and he brings this rich experience to every discussion and arrives at a level of resolution and analysis such as I have never encountered. I think the criticism of him bordered on the savage, and I am convinced that people have to beg his pardon."
How does such a gifted person arrive at such a flawed decision?
"I was not there at the time, nor will I be a big hero who says that if I had been there I would have suggested a different course. The team that took part in making the decision under Mazuz and [former state prosecutor] Eran Shendar is second to none in the country. At the time they faced a crossroads: on the one hand they could file an indictment - which in their view held out many difficulties - and possibly crash with it; or they could go for a plea bargain in which a president goes home as a sex offender, with one of the offenses being a felony: committing an obscene act by coercion."
Maybe because of your present position it's not convenient for you simply to admit to the serious mistakes that were made at that time by the prosecution.
"You take it that it's inconvenient for me, whereas for me it is very convenient. If something is inconvenient, I tell you that I will not answer. I will not answer you about things that are not convenient, and in some cases I will try to make sure you don't know that it's not convenient for me."
It's clear today that Mazuz was wrong.
"To whom is it clear?"
It's clear from the result, from the verdict.
"I went to a casino and placed a chip - is it called a chip? - on some number, yes? The winning number was one. Was I wrong?"
It's not the same.
"When you make the decision you don't know what the results will be - they depend on a multitude of variables. The test by which I will be ready to confirm to you that I was wrong is to say that on the day on which I acted, according to the information that was available to me, taking into account the considerations that it was right to take into account then, at that point of time, looking at it in retrospect, I really was wrong. I am not willing to say that when I enter an unknown world, with prospects and risks, and I make a decision, but in practice the decision does not work out - I am not ready to say that this in any way indicates that I was wrong from the outset.
"I think there is a far greater likelihood that if the critics - including the various experts, law professors - had been part of the system, they would have agreed with the absolute majority that made the decision on the plea bargain, and would not have taken a different stance."
Lador entered office following another conviction on a sex offense, far less serious in character but just as noisy and no less volatile: the case of the kiss that Haim Ramon, at the time justice minister, gave a female soldier in the Prime Minister's Office. After the conviction, Ramon fomented a tempest, demanding that the investigators be investigated for concealing from him the findings of a wiretap placed on his phone during the probe.
"The Ramon affair is a watershed," Lador says, "because a number of elements converged there, all of them powerful heavyweights, with money, who decided to launch a campaign against the state prosecution." The height of the campaign, he says, came in the previous cabinet meeting chaired by Olmert, in which the justice minister at the time, Prof. Daniel Friedmann, demanded the establishment of a commission of inquiry to examine the behavior of the police and the prosecution in the Ramon case.
"It was a hallucinatory meeting, hallucinatory," Lador recalls. "I was there. The Israeli government holds a discussion that lasts hours, with Ramon's participation. He announces that because he is the subject of the case he will not express himself personally, whereupon he speaks for, I would say, at least 15 or 20 minutes, explaining everything he had already explained before, countless times. The Israeli government spends hours discussing a super-super minor issue in a particular case involving a cabinet minister. No one would have dealt with the issue - and not only with that issue but even with one a hundred times greater - if it had involved a procedure against someone else. But it was all part of the same campaign, which at a certain stage became truly obsessive, almost vindictive. Those who played a key role in the case within the law enforcement system, including the [Tel Aviv] district prosecutor, Ruth David, and the prosecutor in the case, Ariela Antler, paid a very steep price: they were subjected to relentless defamation of character lasting four years from every possible forum in which Ramon or other senior figures, such as Prof. Friedmann, spoke."
Friedmann accused the prosecution of framing people, including Ramon.
"Not only was Prof. Friedmann's criticism unjustified, it was not based on genuine familiarity with the state prosecution. So I find it even more grave that he was ready to voice his opinion. True, he visited the offices of the state prosecution occasionally, but only for events such as toasts [before holidays], and he showed no interest in the actual workings of the system. He also assailed the Supreme Court. It's tough to rehabilitate the positive image that those two agencies should have in the face of harsh criticism by the minister of justice himself."
Still, the state comptroller, who examined the wiretapping in the Ramon case, found that the police and the prosecution were very careless and did not convey the material to the defense.
"That was a hitch that did the most damage to the prosecution, not to Ramon. Had it not been for that slip, the prosecution would have received more and more confirmations of its factual account, while Ramon would have had a perhaps slightly more impressive argument about the way pressure was put on that woman [the soldier] in one way or another [to file a complaint]. "
That little kiss sent a whole country into a tailspin, undermined the government's stability and ended the political career of one of the most senior politicians in Israel. Should that minor event have ended with an indictment and a conviction that takes 100 pages to deal with an event that took two seconds?
"I think the indictment was right, and I will add: In the Ramon case, to the best of my understanding - and I wasn't there at the time and I am not familiar with the material in full detail - but to the best of my understanding it was also possible to reach the conclusion that he should be acquitted. That is not to say that the indictment should not have been filed. Let's see what the situation was and you show me how the case could have been closed, okay?
"You are talking about a kiss. Let me elaborate a bit. As the soldier, H., stands opposite Ramon, he doesn't suddenly give her a kiss on the cheek but caresses the back of her neck, pulls her face close to his and shoves his tongue into her mouth. That disturbs her to the point where she talks in terms of maybe not wanting to file a complaint but of wanting to 'bury the story between four walls.' What, in your opinion is an attorney general supposed to do? Close the file? Wouldn't that be an obscene act?"
You decided to indict Jacob Weinroth, one of Israel's leading attorneys. You understand that you turned his life upside down.
For the sake of conversation, let's say that at the end of the day Weinroth is acquitted, even if the judge is critical of his behavior. Would that not mean that you acted wrongly, that you did him an injustice?
"No. I would have made a mistake if I had not filed the indictment. If our system were based on 100 percent success - including in the area of indicting public figures - we would be living in an unworthy country, in which two aspects would be ruled out: a judicial process with all it entails, because I do not know in advance how a trial will develop; and the court's ability to form its own impression and make a decision. I am not ready to abide only by the criterion of the outcome and say, 'If the result is acquittal, that means I made a mistake.' The only true test - and it too is not practical for examining whether we were wrong in deciding to indict - is to peruse the investigative material directly. The closest test for reviewing the prosecution's decisions in some cases - and it too is far from unflawed - is whether the prosecution passed the 'no case' contention: that is, the defendant's argument that there is no case for him to answer."
Lador maintains that the indictment that was filed against Weinroth and against Shuki Vita, a senior official in the Tax Authority, on suspicion of giving and receiving bribes, "reflects a threatening reality" in the realm of relations between government and big capital. According to the charge sheet, Weinroth provided Vita with free legal services or asked for reduced fees when he set about erasing a previous conviction of Vita's, so that he could be promoted in the Tax Authority. Vita, for his part, is suspected of concluding improper tax agreements with clients of Weinroth, including the tycoons Mikhail Chernoy and Arcadi Gaydamak, while hiding his actions from his superiors. The deal netted Weinroth some NIS 32 million, according to the prosecution.
"Weinroth did not ask for his fee until long after he dealt with the matter," Lador says, "and then he asked for a low fee of NIS 16,000 including VAT in 20 payments. If it were just a reduced fee, we would not have become involved, because it would not fall under the criminal umbrella - I don't deal with the fee a lawyer decides to charge a client. Where does it start to be problematic and hence also becomes, in my view, a case of throwing sand in our eyes? The moment there is a simultaneous two-way movement of interests. Because, according to the indictment, at the same time that Weinroth gave legal services to Vita, he needed a service that Vita provided him in the Tax Authority. It happened almost in the same breath, when you look at the behavior of the two, sometimes in the same hours. Weinroth succeeded in getting Vita to do his bidding, though this involved a significant deviation from the norm. He hid the matter from his superiors, telling no one in the system, even though the agreements involved billions of dollars. An additional claim is that Vita allegedly arrived at lenient tax arrangements for Chernoy and Gaydamak. That was totally off the mark for which Weinroth wanted the tax arrangements, because Chernoy and Gaydamak probably did not have to pay tax in Israel." W
Moshe Lador was born 66 years ago in Kibbutz Matzuva, in Upper Galilee. He did his army service in an anti-aircraft unit and was later promoted to officer rank in an infantry unit in the reserves. His somewhat pro-national inclinations can be seen, for example, in his decision not to appear himself in the High Court of Justice for hearings on petitions filed against the Israel Defense Forces dealing with the interception of the Marmara, the Turkish ship that was en route to Gaza. After Operation Cast Lead and the castigations of the Goldstone report that followed, his colleagues heard speeches from him - as usual, too long - in which he asked, "What country in the world would agree to come under missile attack without responding?"
Lador is sharply critical of the Jewish jurist Richard Goldstone and of the report he published - even though he did not have Israel's cooperation - about Israeli war crimes in Operation Cast Lead. "The Goldstone report is necessarily distorted, necessarily one-sided, necessarily fails to reflect reality and cannot reflect reality, because he did not have the tools."
What would you have done in his place?
"In his place I would say: Because I did not get all the necessary tools, I am refusing the assignment. Or I would have written a completely different report."
Lador also has a message for the United States and for the EU: "I want to see the countries of the enlightened world fighting wars like ours and being ready to absorb the deliberate attacks on civilians, yet responding in such a relatively careful way as Israel." He adds, "Deliberate fire at civilians should have brought about new rules of war for a state doing battle against a terrorist entity."
Between Anat Kamm and Eli Zeira
Lador makes no secret of his pro-national leanings and of his anger at the behavior of international bodies toward Israel. He was also the official who dealt with one of the most talked about and most widely covered security affairs in recent years, one that entails security, journalistic and legal dilemmas, and also public ramifications: the Anat Kamm case.
A few months ago, the state prosecution charged the journalist Anat Kamm with aggravated espionage, alleging that she had, while serving in the bureau of the GOC Central Command, taken thousands of documents, some of them highly classified, and made them available to Haaretz journalist Uri Blau on computer disks. (Under a plea bargain approved by Tel Aviv District Court on February 6, Kamm will not be charged with intent to harm state security. ) The episode, which was long subject to a gag order, stirred a furor not only in Israel but in the international media. It was Lador who dictated the tough line.
Kamm gave the documents to a journalist, not an agent of Hezbollah.
"I do not suspect Anat Kamm or Uri Blau of wanting to harm state security or pass the documents to an enemy. Heaven forbid. No one imagines that. Our handling of the case came against the background of seeing a series of leaks of concrete material, classified documents whose exposure could harm national security. It's a dangerous phenomenon. Nor is there any way to know if the material, once it left my possession and was obtained by persons not under our supervision, reached the enemy, too."
Do you expect a journalist who receives sensitive material to rush to the police and turn in the source?
"As far as I am concerned, after the journalist sees the first document on a disk like that, he should take a match and burn it."
And if the disk contains evidence of blunders by the defense establishment whose exposure could benefit the public?
"If the result is that he takes it home and downloads it to his unprotected computer on the first floor of a building on pillars in Tel Aviv, then the answer is that I do not accept that in any way and that I launch criminal proceedings."
Everything but the kitchen sink
"Mr. Olmert has no intention of debating the state prosecutor in the pages of the newspaper," Amir Dan, the media adviser of Ehud Olmert, said in response to the comments by Moshe Lador - "still less at a time when a trial is underway over some of the issues he chose to talk about. Naively, we thought that once a trial begins, the rules of sub judice apply, certainly where the state prosecutor is concerned, including sub judice rules whose aim is to prevent unacceptable external influence on the court.
"It would certainly be convenient for the state prosecutor if, while the State Prosecutor's Office engages in tendentious and distorted leaks, provides the media at its initiative with edited disks, carries out behind-the-scenes briefings and gives serial interviews, the side that is affected by this media behavior remains silent.
"We would consider following that course of action if unacceptable and unprecedented behavior by the state prosecution had not been revealed during the trial, including the preparation of a briefing document for a central witness, with the aim of taming her and preventing her from testifying truthfully; threatening witnesses during their interrogation to the point where they lapsed into a serious mental state; relying on a central witness who invents stories to the best of his imagination; and drawing up an indictment that includes everything but the kitchen sink and whose connection to the evidence in the file is purely coincidental."
Haim Ramon responded by saying, "The leading experts on criminal law in Israel and internationally, from Prof. [Mordechai] Kremnitzer to Prof. George Fletcher, stated that it was out of place to file an indictment in my case. It is very peculiar that Lador calls the blunders in my trial a 'hitch,' even though Judge [Hagai] Brenner found them to be gross negligence and Judge Vardi Zeiler termed them gross negligence with an element of malice. The state comptroller, retired Judge Micha Lindenstrauss, found them to be concrete negligence and imputed personal responsibility to those involved. Yet despite this, a prosecutor in the case was promoted to the position of Tel Aviv district prosecutor.
"Lador repeats the coarse lie to the effect that the material gleaned from the wiretapping benefited the prosecution. The truth is that the wiretapping revealed a contradiction between the complainant's account in court and what she said in the transcript. What was exposed there was an array of threats and falsehoods on the part of police officers against the complainant, which induced her to file a complaint. If I the wiretapping material had been in my possession before the trial, I would not have forgone a [prior] hearing and I would not have agreed to lift my parliamentary immunity.
"The cabinet meeting that dealt with the establishment of a commission of inquiry was hallucinatory because Attorney General Mazuz threatened the ministers and demanded that they block the creation of a commission whose aim was to investigate the attorney general and senior officials of the state prosecution and thereby implement a unanimous decision by the Knesset's Constitution Committee.
"It is Lador and his colleagues who more than anyone are weakening the state prosecution and causing the public to lose faith in it by behaving with double standards."
Morris Talansky's lawyer, Jacques Chen: "The fact is that Talansky did come to Israel and completed his testimony. The delay in his return to Israel on one occasion stemmed from a new development about which we were not aware at the time the date was set for his return and the completion of the testimony. Once that issue was worked out in coordination with the prosecution and the court, Mr. Talansky arrived and completed his testimony, as he had undertaken."
A spokesman for attorney Jacob Weinroth's firm responded by saying: "It is regrettable that such a senior figure in the state prosecution is talking publicly about a case while it is pending a judicial decision, after the evidence has been heard. We shall not follow suit. We shall say only that the remarks quoted from the state prosecutor constitute a backtracking from the indictment, which states that the Shuki Vita file was 'an exceptional file in attorney Weinroth's office' and that 'the fee was reduced, was given under lenient conditions and was paid for the sake of appearance only.' Beyond this, we will not go into the details of the case.
"The full evidence is before the distinguished judge, including the evidence relating to additional matters which the state prosecutor chose not to talk about. It is the court that will examine and decide in the case, in the light of the evidence."
Prof. Daniel Friedmann declined to comment.