New heights of chutzpah
A record that held for many years was broken this week: the chutzpah record. The previous record holder was Yasser Arafat, when he put on shows condemning terror. But he has been left far behind the new record holder - the associates, spokesmen and lawyers of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
A record that held for many years was broken this week: the chutzpah record. The previous record holder was Yasser Arafat, when he put on shows condemning terror. But he has been left far behind the new record holder - the associates, spokesmen and lawyers of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Without a shred of knowledge, proof or a trace of evidence, they hurried to accuse the State Prosecutor's Office - and personally attack its head, Edna Arbel - of leaking the completion of the draft indictment against Sharon, claiming she wanted to pressure Attorney General Meni Mazuz into adopting the indict recommendation .
That is chutzpah with three levels. First, Sharon doesn't have a competitor when it comes to the welcome sphere of leaking - for decades he has given plenty of journalists plenty of work. More than anything else, there was Sharon, as agriculture minister on his way to the defense ministry, who would attack Prime Minister Menachem Begin in cabinet meetings and, amazingly, before his hot breath had cooled off, he would be quoted, more or less in full, on the radio. Second, they're using the well-known tactic of a robber who complains about police brutality. And third, the most vocal of those saying he should not be charged unless conviction is absolutely guaranteed beforehand, are scattering their own baseless charges.
The professional prosecution team dug and investigated and reached a uniform view that Sharon would be prosecuted. Sharon hopes Mazuz will turn his back on the recommendation, thus expressing utter and sweeping lack of confidence in the professionalism of the prosecution team, with which he will have to work over the coming years. Mazuz indeed has the authority to do so, but that authority is not supposed to be used arbitrarily, and in any case, the Sharon case will most certainly be overseen by the Supreme Court. There will be a storm of petitions one way or the other regarding the case, which will surely perpetuate his name in the annals of the law in Israel and Mazuz will have to persuade the justices that any reasonable attorney general would behave the same way in the same circumstances as he did. His predecessor, Elyakim Rubinstein, suffered a stinging rebuke from the High Court of Justice, which threw the representative of the Shin Bet off the investigating team that looked into the leaks in the Cyril Kern affair. At least in one case - Arbel's, who for a month was the acting attorney general, between Rubinstein and Mazuz - it was clear that the prosecution's recommendation would have been totally acceptable.
Those who want to free Sharon from any trial bring up two faulty arguments: the necessity of a certain conviction and distortion of the voter's wishes. If the attorney general is the final arbiter on the issue of a conviction as the reasonable outcome of as trial, then what are judges supposed to do? Sharon supporters, who are trying to establish an insurmountable threshold for a certain conviction, will turn their argument around if Mazuz lets them down. In that case, they'll argue Sharon's chances of getting a fair trial were ruined, because the judges in the case will be unduly influenced by the attorney general's confidence in a conviction.
The attorney general is not in charge of forming a coalition or who heads it. Israeli voters elected a Knesset, and in that House, inside and between the factions, there are various struggles to form governments and to bring them down. No confidence in the government is one of the rules of the game and so is the removal of the corrupt. Sharon was David Appel's candidate for the leadership of the Likud and the government. An indictment that brings someone else to the prime minister's office - as long as it is not Ehud Olmert - will only be a distortion of the merchant's will, not the voters'.
A Sharon resignation won't lead to new elections but only to the appointment of a different representative of the party to head the government, like Yitzhak Rabin (then number 20 on the Alignment list) instead of Golda Meir after the 1973 elections. Therefore, it won't be about changing the government, but rather just an appropriate, albeit long-delayed, end to the public career of a man who was ready to use any means available to achieve his goals.