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A new, surprising name was added in recent weeks to the list of people who fight public corruption - Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. It's hard to believe, but the same Mazuz who passionately explained why he would not prosecute Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for his ties to businessman David Appel ordered with equal passion investigations in the matter of ministers Yosef Paritsky and Tzachi Hanegbi. Someone who saw nothing wrong with $3 million deposited into the joint bank account owned by the prime minister and his son, Gilad, pounced on the bragging by Paretsky and Hanegbi, on tape and in an interview, about party intrigue, whether concerning party rivals or supporters in internal elections.

Mazuz's U-turn reeks with the smell of outrageous hypocrisy. In his previous job at the Justice Ministry, Mazuz had reservations about moves in the Deri investigations. If it were up to Mazuz, Deri would not have been suspended from his ministry in 1993 when the indictment was brought against him, and might not even have been prosecuted for a trial that led to his conviction and imprisonment. Now, to cover up his forgiving approach to the prime minister, Mazuz has become the scourge of the ministers. One time not enough, one time too much - on average, he works out fine.

Appel was taped offering Sharon dozens of workers for an election campaign headquarters, or as Appel, in his famously generous terms referred to them, "suicides," while Sharon, then the foreign minister and minister of infrastructures, helped Appel advance his business interests. In Mazuz's eyes, that was not a corrupt relationship of give and take of the sort that exists when a politician wins power and pays off supporters or their relatives. Three thousand shekels or 300 votes - that's corruption. Three million dollars, in Mazuz's eyes, was a fair wage for a fellow lacking any experience, a fellow who happened to be the son of a politician named Sharon.

Mazuz insisted that the Hanegbi probe be conducted by the police and not by an external agency of any sort. That was meant to force Hanegbi out of the ministry, so went the reasoning, lest the investigators go easy on him for fear of his retribution. That sounds logical, but it ignores the facts of life. The investigators, headed by someone Hanegbi promoted to deputy commander - and whose best friend is the head of the liaison team that works closely with Hanegbi as minister and whom Hanegbi promoted to commander - can be grateful for the past.

If they are looking ahead, however, those investigators will make clear to all the ministers and not only Hanegbi whom among the cops understands how things work and is therefore worthy of promotion, while older, stricter colleagues lag behind; and as far as Mazuz is concerned, if that's the way things work for a minister, then obviously it should work for the prime minister, who is still under investigation.

One of the inquiries against Sharon is soon to make an official recommendation to prosecute the prime minister's son Omri and his bureau chief Dov Weisglass - whom Mazuz continues to allow to work part-time as the prime minister's envoy in addition to Weisglass' private affairs.

The police reckon that the Hanegbi investigation will lead nowhere, because there isn't enough to go on in what Hanegbi said. In the natural course of affairs, the probe should begin with the Civil Service Commission's own investigative mechanisms, since the initial subjects for investigation should be the people Hanegbi appointed. If they don't break in their interrogations and incriminate Hanegbi, by describing a relationship built on give and take, the chances of winning a conviction are slim.

Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander was already afraid of his chief investigator, Ofer Reichman, and threw him back to the Shin Bet, from where Reichman came. More than anything, Hollander wants to please the ministers and especially the prime minister. When the head of intelligence in the Mossad, Brig. Gen. (res.) A., and the chief IDF ombudsman, Avner Barazani, signed an advertisement supporting the Sharon plan for evacuating settlements, Hollander ruled that it was not a matter of civil servants getting involved in politics, because that prohibition is only in reference to elections and not referendum. Thus it is in the Mossad, the Defense Ministry and the army; Then-defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai named Shaul Mofaz chief of staff, and a happy Mofaz allowed a lieutenant colonel who worked for Mordechai to get out of the army and help Mordechai's election campaign, and then rejoin the army, with the help of an officer who eventually was made a major general.

In Israeli society, the attorney general is the director general of the environmental affairs ministry, in the broadest sense of the term. The minister of the environment is the president of the Supreme Court. Last week, at a ceremony installing judges, Court President Justice Aharon Barak reiterated his worship of the rule of law. Barak and Mazuz oppose corruption. Who doesn't? Sharon can also shout, "Who is in favor of eradicating corruption?" The abyss Barak and Mazuz have difficulty leaping is the one between the high-falutin' statements and the tangible decisions, which determine reality.