During Sunday's cabinet meeting one of the ministers pointed out that the discussion on the prisoner exchange deal with Hezbollah had been shorter. Haim Ramon was certainly not impressed. As far as he is concerned, what the State Prosecutor's Office and the police did to him was a strategic-level terrorist attack, which is enough to turn the whole world on its head and alter the rules of the game. A casus belli. And things got bellicose alright.
The minister's "friends" refused to enlist themselves to his personal and just vendetta against the law enforcement system. For hours they butted heads and exchanged insults, until finally it was the decided that the state comptroller should be requested to review the scandal. Is that it? The state comptroller? They might have just sent him a letter. He would have been delighted to look into it.
Instead of going for this sane solution in the first place, the warring parties did battle. Incidentally, the first person to suggest this solution was Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, at a Labor ministerial meeting nine days ago.
"It was an exercise in arm twisting, egos at work, power plays and plenty of self righteousness," commented one attendee at yesterday's cabinet meeting.
He was commenting on the efforts of the attorney general and state prosecutor, who were covering up for their subordinates; and on the police chief, who is seeking to paint over foul-ups in his jurisdiction. He was also referring to the public security minister, who is cooperating with his police chief, and to the ministers running for the leadership of Kadima, for whom appearing corruption-free is all important. But he was mainly referring to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.
The reason for Ramon's failure is first and foremost Ramon. He has pushed his own personal issue too far. But he would have never succeeded in failing so thoroughly if it were not for Friedmann fighting in his name.
Friedmann has been in office for 18 months now, and has been defeated time and time again: The reforms, the initiatives, the revolutions - they all remained in newspaper ink, wallowing in a sea of insults, barbs and mutual slandering between the minister and Supreme Court justices, between the minister and the state attorney's people.
Ehud Barak and the rest of Labor's ministers could not have hoped for a more beautiful gift than Justice Minister Friedmann in Olmert's cabinet. They are scoring nothing but victories in their endless wrestling match against him.
It was almost Saturday, the army officers were in the waiting room, holding their maps in their hands. Friedmann kept at it. At a certain point, Barak lost patience. "Daniel, I don't think we need to hear all the details," he said. "Why don't you move on to the issue at hand?"
But Daniel went on and on. And if before the meeting any of the ministers entertained the slightest doubt about the usefulness of that committee, then by the end of that meeting they were all unanimous: It shall not come to pass.
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