Freedom From Attacks

The Deri case, in which a minister was tried and convicted of criminal offenses, should act as a precedent for the current investigations against Olmert.

When Aryeh Deri was under investigation for a string of corruption crimes, he took various defensive measures. He exercised his right to silence, and he tied political moves by Shas to developments in the probe. He even got involved in the Hebron-Bar On affair, a maneuver to get himself off the hook, while at the same time trying to manipulate the media to generate public sympathy for him.

Deri's self-defense tactic served him well: He managed to stall the proceedings (nine years elapsed from the beginning of the investigation against him to his conviction in court), he continued playing a central role in Israeli politics, and, most importantly, he succeeded in portraying himself among his constituents (and beyond) as a victim, rather than a felon.

All these tricks did not prevent his conviction. The Jerusalem District Court found him guilty of taking bribes, fraud and breach of trust and sentenced him to four years in prison and an NIS 250,000 fine. He was convicted of crimes of moral turpitude, cutting short a previously impressive political career.

The twisted course of enforcing the law on Deri was repeatedly blocked by the arguments he raised against the police's conduct, mainly the leaks from the interrogation rooms. Deri was right: The police used the media to pressure him and as a means to discover the truth. Even if the leakers' motives were far from noble, this problematic behavior was of secondary importance. The most important thing was to expose the criminal behavior of one of the most influential people in Israel and force him to pay for what he did.

The circumstances surrounding the present inquiries which the attorney general and state prosecutor are conducting against the prime minister are reminiscent of the atmosphere Deri had created around his investigation. Nothwithstanding the differences between Olmert and Deri (Olmert is not on trial, the inquiries against him that were closed concluded that he had not broken the law), the prime minister, via his cronies, is throwing accusations at civil servants investigating his conduct. This is an attempt to deter the investigators and accusers, undermine their credibility and clean up Olmert's image.

Thus, accountant general Yaron Zelekha is being painted in a sinister light, as if he were the puppet of Benjamin Netanyahu. Yaakov Borovsky, the state comptroller's aide, is suddenly facing a complaint about the time he lobbied for the police commissioner's job. Even the state comptroller was criticized by five respectable professors who published a sharp ad charging him with seriously threatening the functioning of government and law and order.

These objections, whatever their source, are not unfounded: Zelekha is a controversial man, Borovsky apparently campaigned for himself in a questionable way, and the observations the five professors made about Micha Lindenstrauss' work methods are correct. But, as in Deri's case, the test is in distinguishing between the main and marginal issues. In Deri's affair, it was important to verify whether his conduct was criminal. What is at hand now is the ability to ascertain whether Ehud Olmert committed a criminal offense in the cases the police and state comptroller are now examining. The probe must be conducted on the issues themselves, without interruptions and diverting attention (and investigation resources) to secondary issues.

The issue that must be examined now is not Yaron Zelekha's personality, Borovsky's campaigning for commissioner or even Lindenstrauss' greed for publicity and problematic work methods.

While the investigations against the prime minister are going on, Zelekha must be free of the threat of dismissal, Borovsky must be protected from the Police Investigations Department's probe and Lindenstrauss' must be immune to attempts to undermine his position. The examiners must be free to conduct their inquiry without external pressures.