An Israeli judge beat his children − that is the allegation made in a complaint submitted three years ago already. The attorney general’s approval is necessary for the investigation of a judge. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein cannot be said to abstain from signing off on such requests, as shown by the questioning of Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger in connection with a corruption investigation against Bat Yam Mayor Shlomi Lahiani. But the investigation of Danziger, which was closed for lack of culpability, had to do with his work as a private attorney, prior to his appointment to the bench. The alleged offenses of the suspected child-beating judge, in contrast, took place in the course of his judgeship, and in that case Weinstein refused as of Wednesday to sign off on a police investigation.

Weinstein’s stated reason is questionable: The potential damage resulting from an investigation exceeds the potential benefit. Damage to whom? To the children, who, according to the complaint by welfare authorities, had suffered long-time abuse? To the already problematic image of the judicial system? To the judge’s professional future?

Judges are only mortal, and as such they are not intrinsically immune to violent inclinations. Protecting the helpless is a supreme duty of all human beings and all systems. The children of judges are not supposed to be more vulnerable than other children to being beaten by their fathers. It is an offense against the public to keep such a judge on the bench for three more days, much less three years. The principle holds for cases of suspected corruption and, even more so, in cases involving victims of violence.

Israel’s judicial branch is in a sad state. It suffers from systemic problems of case overload and serious personnel issues. This was one of the conclusions of a recent opinion issued by Supreme Court President Asher Grunis and Judicial Ombudsman Eliezer Goldberg. Anyone attending a judicial proceeding, whether as a witness, observer or interested party, senses the graveness of the situation. Fixing these problems must be one of the main goals of Tzipi Livni if she ends up being justice minister in the next government.

But all this does nothing to answer this simple but piercing question: What was Weinstein thinking when he barred the police from investigating whether the judge beats his children, and did he remember that his chief responsibility is to the public, including children, and not to the judges?