Opt for the Greater Good

The intercontinental missile fired yesterday by State Prosecutor Moshe Lador from Houston, where he is on a family trip until Saturday night, requires a tough but crucial decision: Extend the term of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz by one more year.

Lador sent a letter to Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman yesterday urging him to ditch his proposal to split the AG position into two; he said such a move would seriously undermine the rule of law. Given Lador's declaration of war on Neeman, the government could simultaneously lose both the state prosecutor and the attorney general, whose term ends at the end of January.

So far, Mazuz has insisted on stepping down as soon as his six-year term comes to its official close. But the government has extended by a year the tenures of the Mossad and Shin Bet chiefs, claiming that this is a fateful time on the security front, and it can't afford the vacuum portended by Lador's missive.

Israeli democracy is as important to Mazuz as it is to Lador, and he should give up his personal convenience for the greater good of remaining in office until the justice system recovers.

Lador is a tough prosecutor, which to a large extent contrasts with his predecessor, Eran Shendar. During the period that Mazuz and Lador were working together, the number of indictments of politicians - above all, Ehud Olmert - shot up. The politicians fought back by trying to amputate the long arm of the law through their representative, Neeman - a non-politician and successor to Daniel Friedmann, the non-politician who previously occupied the same seat. Here's proof that a professional cabinet - often touted as a miracle drug to shore up the government's weaknesses - is not all it's cracked up to be.

Neeman taught Lador tax law nearly 40 years ago, and they've been friendly so far. In fact, Neeman had Lador over at his house just last week. Then Lador woke up.

There hasn't been a crisis in the justice system like this one since the decision to indict top Shin Bet officials in the cover-up of the 1984 killing of two Palestinian terrorists who had been captured alive, widely known as the Bus 300 affair. The political leaders today - Benjamin Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak - are all involved in Neeman's attempt to split the attorney general's job in two. But even with that high-level support, if Mazuz takes a position against the move, the issue will go to the High Court of Justice.

If anyone needs reminding, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch is herself a former state prosecutor. And she has never seen the prosecution as something to sneeze at.