'Honey, I Shrunk the Indictments': Lieberman Has Won, Justice Has Lost

Amir Oren
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Amir Oren

Lieberman has won. Justice has lost. Behind all the rulings, the explanations, the casuistry and the excuses, one clear fact stands out: The grave and wide-ranging indictment that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein wanted to file against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will not be filed. All the rest is details. Lieberman, without lifting a finger (or at least without leaving a fingerprint), benefited from the lawlessness of the general prosecution.

Lieberman will indeed stand trial for fraud and breach of trust, in one clause, and will most likely be forced to leave the government. This is certainly better than nothing; but it's much worse for the State of Israel than it was for Lieberman 20 months ago, when Weinstein signed a draft indictment on clauses related to fraud, aggravated fraud, laundering money and witness tampering. That indictment was thicker when it emerged from the Israel Police and was adorned with a clause of "bribery," but the disparity between the bribery and the other serious indictments was considered negligible. The main thing was to go to trial, full force and quickly.

This sad affair could be called "Honey, I've shrunk the indictments," but the indictment didn't shrink in the laundry. It turned into a product with an expiration date. They put it in the refrigerator, checked from time to time to see if it was still there, and about 18 months later were amazed to see that it wasn't edible.

In the footsteps of Albert Einstein, Weinstein also discovered enlightening equations of time and space, with a political mass, individual gravity, the speed of light (in the refrigerator of the Lieberman file) and zero energy in the law enforcement system. The eternal question: On whose side is time? has been solved. The answer: On Lieberman's side, of course. He can change his name to Lieber-"zman" (Hebrew for time). That is the individual theory of relativity: When it comes to a powerful politician with a lot of intrigues, they are afraid of losing the trial and are looking for excuses not to risk an acquittal. Although they talk about a uniform burden of proof, that wouldn't have happened to an ordinary suspect.

Like former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose trial is now being delayed because of the absence of a key witness, Lieberman was saved by one witness who forgot the key, and in general is having difficulty remembering. But Weinstein says that two and a half years ago Daniella Mortzi still had a good recollection of the data that ostensibly incriminated Lieberman. What happened between April 13, 2011 and December 2012? 

Twenty precious months, which ate through memory like acid, slipped through their fingers. How was the time lost? In a preliminary trial called a "hearing," and in internal discussions by the prosecuting team, but without any convincing explanation of the turning point in their thinking, unfortunately not until last summer. Then a significant event took place: The ruling of the Jerusalem District Court in the case of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: two acquittals and one conviction.

Weinstein is not involved in the Olmert case; he was one of his attorneys in the Rishon Tours affair, until his government appointment. But it's not clear how he is standing aside and not giving it to his subordinates, who are contradicting themselves by taking into account Olmert's partial acquittal while at the same time protesting it and appealing to the Supreme Court.

What is the connection between the decision of specific judges in a specific case, with which the State Prosecutor's Office disagrees, and the unknown decision of other judges whose identity is yet to be determined, in another case?

State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, who as a loyal soldier in the prosecuting army opposed Weinstein's decision but also mobilized to defend it from appeals to the Supreme Court, is said to have estimated that 80 percent of Israel's judges are likely to acquit Lieberman of the major indictment, which was shelved, and that nobody can guarantee to Lador that the case will reach any of the judges in the 20 percent who will convict. That is a horrifying assessment: Tell me who will preside at the trial, and I'll tell you how the case will end.

In the test of the immediate results, Lieberman cannot continue to be the foreign minister for another minute. Someone who according to the indictment (and the second person accused in the case has already confessed) received a classified document from his ambassador that relates to him personally, and put it in his pocket, must immediately let go of the foreign ministry portfolio and responsibility for Israel's ambassadors and relations with foreign countries. Nor can Lieberman continue to be a deputy prime minister and a member of the cabinet. But that is small consolation, which does not balance out the great injustice involved in shelving the main file.

The Supreme Court will probably discuss the appeals against closing the file, but that won't be the right discussion, because it will center on Weinstein rather than Lieberman. Despite Weinstein's decisive style, he still seems to be siding with Lador to some extent, and if the Supreme Court overcomes its addiction to precedents and intervenes in the attorney general's judgment, to the point of ordering that Lieberman stand trial, Weinstein won't be terribly insulted.

The Israeli public's sense of justice received a mortal blow today, from the top agents of law enforcement. The presumption of innocence would apply to Lieberman even had he been tried, and it is there even in light of the shelved indictment, but the impression that the attorney general did not carry out justice will become rooted in public opinion. What Weinstein failed to do, the Supreme Court must do.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein at the State Control committee, December 19, 2011.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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