Ronit Amiel is the No.2 person in the central district state prosecution and the senior prosecutor in the sex crimes case against the former president, Moshe Katsav, together with her colleague, attorney Nissim Merom. The judges' verdict is to be handed down at the end of the month.
Amiel has the esteem of the State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, who together with then Attorney General Menachem Mazuz put the Katsav case in her hands. She is considered the natural candidate to replace District Prosecutor Rachel Shiber when the latter retires.
Amiel has been working in the central district prosecution for 23 years and took leave for two years to study at Jerusalem's Mandel Leadership Institute.
Tell us how the prosecutors' strike has affected your daily work? Which of your missions have been canceled?
Most of the work does not exist. The exception is appearances in arrests that have been exempted from the strike. There are no discussions about plea bargains, no directives to the police, no directives to the prosecutors and we don't work on files. I sit at home except for the days when it's my turn to be on duty, when I am called to take care of meetings about the immunity of intelligence material in cases exempted from the strike, and I discuss what investigative material will be revealed.
Let's talk about your work day as a senior prosecutor during routine times. When do you start working and when does your workday end?
I start at 8 or 8:30 A.M., and the lights are still on sometimes until late. I don't leave before 7 P.M. But, even after that, the evenings and nights are devoted to telephone calls, to talks with investigators and with prosecutors whom I instruct and accompany but don't actually appear with. The image of an easy job in the state prosecution is completely distorted.
How does your salary compare with that of colleagues in the private sector?
I don't know. I'm not in the state prosecution for the money. It's clear to me that a criminal lawyer who is veteran like me, earns a great deal more... Undoubtedly, my salary is insignificant compared with that of a senior attorney.
Have you had tempting offers to work in the private sector?
Even if there were, I never seriously considered them. That possibility doesn't seem right for me. I like the place I'm in, I have full trust in what the system does, I am comfortable with it, I sense the quality of the work, the quality of the decisions, the very clear professionalism of our people..."
They say prosecutors don't get car allowances, payments for cellular phones. Do you get reimbursed for these expenses?
At my level, people do. But prosecutors lower down do not get reimbursed for their telephone calls or travel to the courts.
What would you like to improve in your work conditions - higher salaries, paid expenses, insurance?
I think that even the salaries of senior prosecutors need to be increased, so they are coordinated to a certain extent with the amount of work and the emotional and psychological load placed on us. There's a high degree of wear and tear in our work. We constantly come up against the pathology of reality in the worst kind of crimes, the worst of victims, every day and every hour. I don't feel this aspect gets suitable expression in our salaries, even when compared with salaries in the rest of the public sector - and not just the private sector.
Not everyone is showing empathy for your struggle.
The public doesn't understand us. I sometimes read talkbacks online and see such a great deal of hatred in them. It's clear to me the public is not aware of the nature of our work, the excellence, the tremendous investment, the devotion on the professional level. Despite the conditions, the work in the long run is not affected because the prosecutors take on themselves the heavy burden of presenting a completely professional and respectable position... I think that people who go into the courtrooms see that we appear in a most respectable manner, a most fitting manner, a most professional manner. The work is done fully at a high personal price while the prosecutors have to deal with a heavy workload and an emotional load. The country can be satisfied that the work is being done. It's sad for me that they are not talking to us now.
Were there nights in the past year when you didn't sleep because of having to deal with the Katsav case, because of thoughts about the case?
More than once.
Because I examined decisions I had made over and over. We are talking about people's lives, in every sense. The accused is also a citizen of this country and [there are] the victims and the public interest, which I represent. I feel a very, very unequivocal need to present excellent professional work, and it's clear that thoughts disturb me throughout the day and sometimes also at night. The work is with me all the time.
Perhaps this is because you were in charge of a case that all eyes are watching?
It's clear that eyes are watching and it's understandable, but that's not everything. Every case is a difficult and complicated affair that obliges one to work a lot and invest attention. We are busy with formulating norms of conduct no matter what the case is, we deal with awesome matters in our work, and in any case in which I make decisions, even if I don't appear in court personally and send another prosecutor. These are matters that touch on the soul of the people concerned and the soul of the state.
Even cases that are not very important from the point of view of the public have an accused, a victim, a public interest, and they are equally important.
Did you work harder than usual in the past year?
I worked hard, but not harder.
If the strike continues, will you and attorney Merom appear in court for the verdict in the Katsav case?
I am really most hopeful there will be a breakthrough, and that they will finally speak with us - and that we won't reach a situation where we won't be present at the verdict. But if indeed that does happen, I personally would very much like to be present at the verdict. The verdict is the result of a great deal of work, a great deal of thought, sweat and toil... On a personal level, I'd like there to be a situation where I am present, that it will be right for me to be present. I have full confidence in the workers committee and whatever they decide, I shall honor.
Was that case not affected by the strike? No, it wasn't. The hearings were over a long time before the strike.
Another question about the Katsav case - answer yes or no. Do you have a personal idea what the verdict will be?
I prefer not to answer.
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