Text size

I don't know whether Rabbi Mordechai Elon did anything wrong, or if so, what he did. Nor do I want to try to guess; that isn't my job. Israel has a law enforcement system to answer such questions; its head is the attorney general, and its arms are the police and other investigative agencies.

But not in the case of Elon. For him, a special track was used: investigation by a secret, volunteer forum with no legal authority, called Takana, which in October 2006 reported the suspicions against Elon to the previous attorney general, Menachem Mazuz. And what did Mazuz do? He did not ask to meet with the complainants, nor did he order the police to investigate. Instead, he concluded, in his bureaucratic style, that "there is no way to handle these specific complaints on the criminal level." Or in plain English, there's no case.

Mazuz covered his rear with a written memo to the then-head of the police's investigations department, Maj. Gen. Yohanan Danino, but what he said in it remains disputed. According to the police, Mazuz said he had decided not to probe the allegations against Elon, and the matter should be left to Takana. According to the Justice Ministry, the material was "sent to the police for examination" so that it could investigate if it so chose.

The behavior of Mazuz and Danino raises many questions, because both are known for their lack of sympathy toward suspected sex offenders. A few weeks before they received the information about Elon, they mobilized with full force to extract a complaint from a female soldier, H., against then-minister Haim Ramon, who was ultimately indicted for forcibly kissing her. As the verdict noted, Danino and his colleagues "saw great public interest in conducting an investigation and obtaining a complaint from the complainant." And Mazuz pushed the probe with all his might.

So it's strange that these very same people, Mazuz and Danino, saw no public interest in probing the allegations against Elon, a teacher, educator and key figure in the religious Zionist community. Takana hinted that it advised the complainants to go to the police, and took action only when they refused. But so what if they refused? So did H., initially; she complained only following heavy pressure from her superior officer, Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, and Brig. Gen. Miri Golan of the police. Why were similar efforts not made to persuade the complainants against Elon? Or if Elon's alleged acts did not constitute a crime - if, for instance, he engaged in consensual sex - why did Takana go to Mazuz?

I'm not trying to downplay the severity of Ramon's behavior, or to revive the claim that he was really indicted to stop his planned reforms of the Justice Ministry. I prefer to believe that his investigators, prosecutors and judges acted in good faith. But for that very reason, I find it hard to understand and accept a situation in which the attorney general has two different lanes for suspected sex offenders - a red lane for the minister and a green lane for the rabbi.

Mazuz was widely praised upon his retirement last month for having rehabilitated respect for the law and shown no fear of the high and mighty. The possibility that he covered up the Elon affair without probing the allegations - and thereby, incidentally, left the rabbi under perpetual suspicion - casts a shadow over his successful track record as head of the law enforcement system. The fact that his successor, Yehuda Weinstein, did decide to open a criminal investigation once the allegations became public knowledge only makes Mazuz's behavior seem more questionable. Mazuz thus owes the public an explanation of his actions in this case.