Why Mazuz Should Stay

The brothers Oded and Sharon Parinyan were convicted four months ago of conspiracy to commit murder, and were sentenced to five years. The conviction and sentence resulted from a plea bargain with the prosecution, which agreed to downgrade the charge for murder, of the criminal Pinchas Buchbut, to conspiracy to commit murder.

"The plea bargain put an end to the farce," wrote the police inquiry panel (the Zeiler commission) regarding the Parinyan case.

The Zeiler commission had been set up to examine the police's handling of two murders: Buchbut and former police officer Zahi Ben-Or, who, he had told the police, had been hired by the Parinyans to murder Buchbut. The commission also investigated suspicions that the Parinyan crime organization had infiltrated the police.

The Zeiler report sent shock-waves throughout the police establishment. Police commissioner Moshe Karadi was fired, yet the two murders that started the snowball rolling remained unsolved.  The commissioner found himself on the sidewalk because of crimes that the Parinyans were suspected of committing, but the brothers themselves were not convicted of murder. In fact, regarding those two deaths, nobody ever was.

The plea bargain with the Parinyans was a low point for the prosecution. Two murders, a crime organization with tentacles in the police force, the top cop thrown out and the suspects behind all that get off with charges of conspiracy.

Given the dimensions of that fiasco, the prosecution's failure to try President Moshe Katsav for rape, pales. Yet 20,000 people participated in a protest against the Katsav plea bargain. But the failure in the most important organized crime investigation in a decade, passed without a peep.

It is true that the Katsav case is a failure by the prosecution and its leader, Attorney General Meni Mazuz. He made one of two bad mistakes: either the case had been weak to begin with, in which case one wonders why he declared early this year that he was going to indict Katsav for rape. Or, if the case had been strong, then why did he fold under pressure and withdraw most of the charges appearing in the original version?

As the public has no opportunity to weigh the evidence, it can't know which mistake was made But some mistake clearly was.

This is not the first time Mazuz has shown poor judgment. Putting the Parinyans aside ? he didn't handle that directly, though his top underlings did, there was his decision to close the Greek Island case against the Sharons. Unlike the Katsav affair, in the Greek Island case, the attorney general fully explained his reasons. But some were embarrassingly unprofessional.

The many mistakes Mazuz makes, in the most important cases he handles, indicates a consistent problem. A problem with the way the state prosecution operates, with the way the police work, with the relations between the police and the prosecution, and a problem with Mazuz's judgment.

The prosecution and police should clean house and locate the source of the problem and fix it. The question that remains open, is whether the house-cleaning should include throwing out Attorney General Meni Mazuz.

One might be tempted, but not this time. Not only because his mistake in the Katsav case pales compared with his mistakes in the Greek Island and Parinyan cases (and if he wasn't fired over those, then why now?), but mainly - because this failure loses in importance, when compared with two issues at stake, each of which is of supreme importance.

One is the case against Avraham Hirchson, who resigned as finance minister yesterday. The other is against Ehud Olmert, who is still the prime minister. It is important that Mazuz be the one to reach the decisions in both cases.

Even if he is suspected of having made mistakes, he is not suspected of being bent, and given the sensitivity of the investigations into Olmert and Hirchson, the honesty of the person making the decisions is crucial.

The risk is that ousting Mazuz now, will open the door to the appointment of an attorney general who is "convenient" to the political echelon. We cannot afford that risk. It could affect Israel's entire political map and existence for years to come, and that's too high a price to pay for the gap between the quality of the conviction of a lowly, unimportant political hack like Katsav.

As for Katsav himself, the plea bargain indicates that he lied, to the police and to the public, when he stated that he had never touched the women. He disgraced his positions as minister and president by sexually harassing his subordinates. That is enough to justify public excoriation and every step possible to deny him the economic benefits due to former presidents. He should be sent home in disgrace, bereft of honor and a living at the taxpayer's expense.