A Caveat to Mazuz

The General Prosecution, under Mazuz' direction, is carrying several loads that clearly affect its powers of judgment.

Lately, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and Police Investigations and Intelligence chief Yohanan Danino have been bringing to mind the three old men from the sketches of the old Zehu Zeh comedy program, as unforgettably portrayed by Moni Monoshov, Avi Kushnir and Gidi Gov.

Like those three oldsters, who were always struggling to make sense of things while relying on the newspaper headlines, these three top officials, charged with enforcing the law, appear to be chasing after press reports and rummaging through ministry archives in search of concrete evidence of the bribery offenses attributed to Ehud Olmert. The discussion among them, as reflected in the media reports, could serve as the basis for a script that goes something like this:

First guy: We got him, we got him!

Second guy: Who did we get?

Third guy: What do you mean, who? The one we were looking for.

Second guy: Messer?

First guy: What Messer? We got the one who masar, who delivered.

Second guy: Really delivered?

First guy: Really and truly. In envelopes.

Second guy: And what about Messer?

Third guy: He was detained for questioning on suspicion of loitering.

Second guy: And what did he get in return for the envelopes?

First guy: Bumpers.

Second guy: Diapers?

Third guy: Not Pampers - bumpers, speed bumps.

Second guy: His hand shook?

First guy: We don't know that yet. We're looking. We also found a letter.

Second guy: To whom?

Third guy: Don't ask, it's a circular business.

Second guy: A big check?

First guy: A letter of recommendation.

The investigative resources that the state puts at the disposal of the law enforcement authorities were intended to stamp out corruption wherever it exists, and not to deal with unimportant trifles. If taking funds from Morris Talansky is considered bribery, then the focus should be on this and on collecting the evidence necessary to draft a sound indictment, and not on digging for farfetched proof about what Olmert purportedly provided in return. And if the investigation does not produce a decision to charge him, for lack of evidence or lack of guilt, then Danino, Lador and Mazuz must not hesitate to say so loud and clear.

This needs to be said because the information that is filtering out to the media about the conduct of the investigation in the Talansky affair paints Mazuz, Lador and Danino as going after Olmert at all costs. He wants the public to see him as having been targeted from the start, as one being persecuted by rivals, and they appear to be playing right into his hands. It's one thing to catch the prime minister accepting a bribe, and another thing to find a negligible defect in the form of a courteous letter of recommendation that he wrote to one American acquaintance about another American acquaintance. It's one thing to prove a clear connection between contributions that he received to the quid pro quo he provided by virtue of his governmental authority, and another thing entirely to brandish an instruction he gave to the Roads Department in the Jerusalem Municipality to build speed bumps on Hakablan Street.

The General Prosecution, under Mazuz' direction, is carrying several loads that clearly affect its powers of judgment in this instance. Mazuz decided at the start of his tenure to spare Ariel and Gilad Sharon from being charged in the Greek Island affair - a decision that brought on scathing criticism from criminal law experts. His conduct in the case of ex-president Moshe Katsav also displayed faulty judgment and a poor professional performance, and his conduct of the investigation in the Talansky affair also has its flaws (For example, the extended gag order in the age of the Internet superhighway).

It's quite likely that, to begin with, the General Prosecution and the police do not feel comfortable investigating serious charges against the prime minister, and that their confidence was shaken all the more in this regard after the criticism they took (including from the Supreme Court) in the Sharon and Katsav cases. Thus, it is not superfluous to call upon them to shrug off this baggage and to conduct the present investigation in an objective, fair and intelligent manner. The way the investigation has been presented in the media thus far makes one wary, unless it's Olmert's people who are behind these leaks in order to arouse sympathy.