Heavyweights in Need of a Right Hook

The onslaught against democracy in recent months, from bills that are like a silencer on a gun barrel, and to attacks on officers and mosques, is not in the least amusing; it begs for courageous decisions.

Spencer Oliver was beaten within an inch of his life. In 1998 Oliver was Europe's super-bantamweight boxing champ, with the world title within reach. At the peak of his strength, unvanquished, after defeating opponents in the previous 14 fights, nine by knockouts, Oliver faced off against Sergei Devakov in London. Devakov, a Ukrainian Israeli, took the title from Oliver and sent him to hospital for a prolonged spell with a blood clot in the brain, and to retirement at the age of 23.

The Oliver twist impressed a friend of then-attorney Yehuda Weinstein (Weinstein has been a boxing fan from childhood ). Devakov became Weinstein's acquaintance and sparring partner. They box every week at the Garage Fitness Club, a favorite haunt of the high-tech crowd in Ramat Hahayal. Weinstein, 67, in his red gloves a local version of Clint Eastwood in "Million Dollar Baby," is a little heavier than Devakov and careful to stay out of reach of his long arms.

Until Weinstein became attorney general, he frequently followed Devakov as he mentored other boxers, among them one who apparently comes from the Hebrew Israelite community in Dimona. Spectators watching the latter's moves in Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park were amazed at the young boxer with his sculpted muscles. "Did he look like that before he started to train," a spectator wondered? "No," Weinstein responded, "he used to be white and fat."

Weinstein has courage and a sense of humor, but can a white man change his spots? Not in the territories, and the wild behavior against the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinians. The onslaught against democracy in recent months, from bills that are like a silencer on a gun barrel, and to attacks on officers and mosques, is not in the least amusing. It begs for courageous decisions.

If it were in his character, the attorney general could manage the country and step in, with or without an invitation, to the vacuum that has been created in government. Weinstein's years as a defense attorney in the private sector got him used to a less feverish pace than his predecessor, Menachem Mazuz, and to selecting the issues that interest him.

The current structure of the attorney general and state prosecutor's offices suffer from a lack of methodicalness. The idea of appointing a comptroller for the system is basically a good one - to analyze data, to unify policy (for example, in plea bargains in the various districts ), to supervise and to learn lessons to improve the system - as long as it does not disrupt the management of existing cases and hold a whip over the heads of the prosecutors.

The attorney general and state prosecutor both function as leaders in battle. They lack a director general or executive director. Weinstein is expected to put Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on trial, following a hearing, because he will make do with the assessment of a fairly high certainty of a conviction. He is not frightened by a confrontation with the state comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, and turned down the latter's request for computerized supervision, in real time, of events in government offices in general and the Finance Ministry in particular. His aides say he listens to criticism. The comments he heard last week from journalists, in their role as minesweepers, on the draft bill that would prohibit publication of information from ongoing investigations, influenced him to abandon the particularly sweeping clauses of the bill.

More than once, in this chilly winter of Israeli democracy, Weinstein intervened and expressed an opinion, from an objection to a veto, on legislation advanced by Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. Those were bantamweight battles in comparison to the heavyweight championship - the challenge of the extreme right in the territories, which not only disputes policy, what anyone may do, but also rejects the authority of the state.

Determined action must be taken against the extreme right, in a task force together with the prosecution, IDF, Shin Bet security service and the police. So far, this has occured only hesitantly, when police investigators from the Judea and Samaria Division and the Shin Bet department in charge of investigating Jewish suspects were placed under the authority of the security department of the Serious and International Crimes Unit, headed by Chief Superintendent Amir Moshe.