Legal Analysis / Who Will Defend the Prosecutors?

That famous line from Shakespeare's "Henry VI" - "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" - is not far from being realized in Israel today. The 30-days-and-counting long strike by state prosecutors has turned them into nothings. No one is genuinely bothered by the strike. Police investigations lie idle, case files pile up by the thousands, dozens of suspects are released prematurely - and life goes on.

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch occasionally warns of the damage wreaked by the strike, but her cries ring hollow and she is powerless to act.

Tel Aviv District Court President Dvora Berliner yesterday spoke of irrevocable damage to the entire judicial year, and no one blinked.

The Finance Ministry woke up yesterday and suggested that the prosecutors seek arbitration, in the clear knowledge that nothing will change in the coming months and that this is the end of the rule of the prosecutors, who have no one to defend them.

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman has not only failed to defend the state's attorneys but even, in the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, slammed them for exercising their right to strike and predicted the collapse of the justice system as though he did not bear personal and official responsibility.

It is clear that the prosecutors are not the worst-off professional group in the public sector, but it is also clear that the working conditions of most of them do not enable them to do their jobs, not in the face of batteries of well-paid, highly experienced private attorneys, particularly when it comes to major criminals or senior public figures.

What must happen now is for the prosecutors to sit down with officials from the finance and justice ministries and hash out a rough agreement that will enable their immediate return to work.

It's hard to believe that Neeman, who made his name by bringing together disparate elements in both the public and private sectors, could not find even a temporary solution to this problem.