Abraham Lincoln is alive and well and receiving money illegally in Cyprus. Perhaps that's who it is. Or could it be Arik Lavie, Amnon Lipkin, Avi Luzon, or someone else with the initials A.L. who is connected to a company run by Avigdor Lieberman's daughter? Who could it be? That is a major investigative challenge, a mystery no one can solve.
In the tragicomedy of the Lieberman case, it is ridiculous to hear the pretexts for the upcoming annulment of the draft indictment (except for the charge of the illicit promotion of Israel's former ambassador to Belarus, Ze'ev Ben-Aryeh ). And it is sad to see the entanglements of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who sees himself as a fighting man and who has been defeated by forces, some of which were not in his control. However, he does not deny how terribly slowly he dealt with the case.
On Wednesday April 13, 2011, Weinstein announced that, in his opinion, Lieberman had committed aggravated fraud, breach of faith, money laundering and witness tampering. If Lieberman "so desired," his attorneys could present their factual and legal arguments in a hearing before Weinstein. Potential defendants do not always want a hearing, lest they reveal their line of defense to the prosecution if they are subsequently indicted.
On that day, and for more than a year thereafter, Weinstein was certain that Lieberman would be convicted. Now he believes that the indictment, which he had decided on, would crash and burn. The attorney general of the winter of 2012 is a negative of himself from the spring of 2011. Because Lieberman did want a hearing, he saved Weinstein, because Weinstein would have started out indicting him and ended up finding him innocent. Weinstein does not want weak cases to go from the prosecution to the courts. To his way of thinking, the buck stops with him. If a solid case suddenly became weak, he was right to retract his original intention.
But the hearing is no excuse. All the arguments were predictable; they had been brought up and shot down by the prosecution's team. There is nothing new about the citizen of a foreign country getting cold feet over testifying against a powerful minister. The chief of the police investigations and intelligence branch, Maj. Gen. Yoav Segalovich, who was utterly opposed to closing the case - and is viewed by Weinstein as a professional with high values - can tell Weinstein how common this fear is, and that it does not indicate how a witness will behave when they take the stand. What does a law enforcement system that backs down convey to every witness in every case?
Weinstein actually gave in for another reason: a sudden shift of the balance of what is known as a "reasonable chance for conviction." If the prosecution - first and foremost the attorney general - feels there is such a chance, they prosecute. If not, they close the case.
In April 2011, there was a reasonable chance. There was one this summer, too. Where did it go? Who made it disappear?
The sad answer is threefold: Judges Moussia Arad, Jacob Zaban and Moshe Sobel of the Jerusalem District Court, who shocked the prosecutors - as well as an experienced and uninvolved observer like Weinstein - when they acquitted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs. An appeal was lodged against their infuriating ruling, but, meanwhile, the spirit of the prosecution has fallen and yet to rise again.
The team around Weinstein, which went from determined support of an indictment against Lieberman to muddled thinking, has been struck with weak knees. They do not doubt the facts or their legal interpretation. Rather, they doubt the response of the judges who might hear the Lieberman case, in the Jerusalem District Court.
As a defense attorney who won many victories, Weinstein's image was that of David against the institutional Goliath. As head of the state prosecution, he is no longer a lone warrior: he is King David, with his biblical adviser Joab and his officers and soldiers, who have been struck with defeatism. That is how glorious combative mettle disappears. The road is a sad one, like France's Marshal Petain, victorious in World War I, to Marshal Petain, surrendering in the Second.
Weinstein has not fulfilled his duty by indicting Lieberman for the Ben-Aryeh affair and in forcing him to resign from the government, or at least from the Foreign Ministry. The only road to preventing irreparable damage is to postpone a decision on whether to indict Lieberman on the serious counts as well, until after the Supreme Court rules on the state's appeal in the Olmert case. The reasonable chance of a conviction, which disappeared in the district court, can still be found again in the Supreme Court. Time and the Olmert case have so far worked in Lieberman's favor. Now they can work against him.