Analysis

Israel's Justice Minister Declares War on Key Witness Against Netanyahu

Amir Ohana’s attempt to intimidate Nir Hefetz amounts to witness harassment

State witness Nir Hefetz, Justice Minister Amir Ohana
Emil Salman, Moti Milrod

The party hack now called the “minister of justice” is an avid follower of the law. Leaks from the investigation of witnesses in the cases in which the prime minister is involved drive him crazy (except, obviously, when the leaks benefit the suspect who appointed him, with such leaks now flooding the media). 

Last week he demanded that senior officials at the State Prosecutor’s Office undergo polygraph tests in connection with these leaks. If he gave a personal example and hooked himself up the electrodes of a polygraph, one could ask him three obvious questions.

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1. Amir Ohana, did you know you were using your immunity to break the law, when telling the Knesset what the controversial trick used in the investigation of state witness Nir Hefetz was?

2. Did you do so in order to intimidate that witness?

3. Are you working under the guidelines of the prime minister’s son Yair Netanyahu?

He’s already answered the first question in a “clarification” he issued to the media shortly after his despicable and seemingly criminal act at the Knesset. Eyes that have seen everything, including some of his actions and words, could not believe what they read: the minister, said the statement, did not reveal anything but was “only repeating things that were published earlier.”

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This is hypocrisy, sanctimony and feigned innocence. What can one expect, after all, from someone who in his first day in office announced that “not every court ruling should be obeyed”? That he obey a gag order that has a lesser legal standing than a final ruling?

He would certainly answer the third question above in the negative. Perhaps the needle on the polygraph would shatter and the machine would go up in smoke. What further proof is needed when a few minutes after Ohana’s speech, the prime minister’s eldest son posted on his Twitter account all the details that the court put under a gag order? The coordination between the two of them and its stench is apparent from afar. 

Ohana, who was pulled from the Knesset back benches and plunked down in the bureau of the justice minister, continues to repay his patrons, Yair Netanyahu and his father, in spades. To the best of his (weak) rhetorical ability and with his (negligible) heft, he continues to nip at the heels of the law enforcement branches of government, of the country’s laws which he swore to uphold as a minister, and of basic norms expected of elected officials, never mind the norms expected of a minister of justice.

In the Knesset plenary on Wednesday, when Ohana read out a letter about “some woman” who is “not connected to the investigation in any way” and who was led to meet Hefetz (a meeting attributed to his breaking down and agreeing to turn state’s evidence), he was trying to signal Hefetz that war is war: You are fair game. We are a pack of hyenas at your heels.

This has a name. It’s called witness harassment. In August, a soundtruck was sent to the house of another state’s witness, Shlomo Filber, to shame and harass him. On Wednesday we had another display of harassment, in the sanctuary of Israel’s democracy and under a ministerial aegis.

In Judaism, Ohana would be defined as a scoundrel in the realm of Torah, or in more modern terms, as the fruit of a poisoned tree. The tree grows on Balfour Street, at the prime minister’s residence. Its fruit rolls in the hallways of government ministries and Knesset committees. Ohana is one functionary in a network that includes politicians, public officials, government employees and journalists (or those posing as journalists).

Their holy mission – to adopt Netanyahu’s words in his horse-trading with Yedioth Ahronoth’s Arnon Mozes – is to extricate the prime minister from indictment. On the way, the mission requires assassinating the gatekeepers to undermine the legitimacy of a pending decision by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.