Mazuz Puts His Faith in the Mezuzah

The press reported late last week that Menachem Mazuz is getting a crash course to improve his media performance. The need for this became apparent, say his aides, during the press conference in which he announced his decision to close the file against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his son, Gilad Sharon, and that Mazuz suffers from naivete about the media. The state's response to the petitions filed in this matter indicates the attorney general is also naive in the way he judges the behavior of cunning and greedy public figures, and also in his view that the decision in their favor should be left to "the judgment of the public" and allow him to get on with his business.

Mazuz declared before the High Court of Justice that his decision to close the Greek island file does not mean that he is granting clean bill to those investigated, and it does not rule out the possibility that the suspects did something illegal. The attorney general's declaration raises the suspicion that Ariel Sharon committed illegal acts and behaved dishonestly, but cannot be brought to trial for lack of evidence.

Mazuz manifests naivete by letting the public draw conclusions about the prime minister's questionable behavior. He might as well have told the citizenry: You exercise the necessary moral judgment because I am unable to do it. This is a bizarre proposal that raises concerns that Mazuz does not live among his nation. Does he not know that the standards of public corruption have reached such levels that no sanction, social or political, is imposed on public figures that deviated?

Has he not heard that politicians who were found guilty in court, such as Aryeh Deri for example, intend, or are considering, to become involved in the affairs of state once more? The judgment of the public, as the slogan of Deri's supporters ("He is innocent") attests, overrules the decision of the authorized judicial authority. After all, Israel is an example of a state in which the practiced moral norm is not to evict the corrupt from public life but to welcome them - even if their guilt was proven beyond any doubt. The faith that Mazuz places in "public judgment" is the same as putting one's trust in the power of the mezuzah.

In his response to the High Court of Justice, Mazuz adopts a narrow and technical view of his position. He does not view himself as the senior defender of the rule of law, but a passive sieve of legal evidence. Even in this role, his conclusions are puzzling. In his legal opinion, published last week, he gave substantial emphasis to the fact that Ariel Sharon did not try to influence the view of Avi Drexler, director of the Israel Lands Administration, who opposed the request of David Appel to alter the classification of the lands he purchased in the area of Lod. From this Mazuz concluded that Sharon did not provide the prize for which Appel allegedly gave a bribe. On the other hand, in the draft of the indictment prepared by former state prosecutor Edna Arbel, Sharon is described as having aggressively acted in Appel's favor over those properties, when the representative of the ILA facing him was Berti Barudo.

What is the meaning of the gap evident in Sharon's response in the two instances? Mazuz avoided relating to this, but apparently the answer could be found in Arbel's document: Drexler met with Sharon over Appel's request after having reported to Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein that the developer had pressured him, and after Drexler had informed Sharon that he had reported this behavior to Rubinstein. In other words, Sharon's proper behavior during his meeting with Drexler, compared with his suspicious behavior with Barudo, was the direct result of knowing that Rubinstein was in the picture. After all, Sharon, unlike Mazuz, is no sucker.

Mazuz must decide: if Sharon's behavior in the Greek island affair attests to dishonesty, he should charge him and not rely on the public's judgment; if his behavior was proper, why then did he include in his response to the High Court of Justice the statement casting suspicion on Sharon?