Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has just started the final quarter of his term, which will last for another year and a half. When one sees the end, one begins to think of one’s legacy.
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At a lawyers’ convention last week in Eilat, Weinstein gave an interim accounting of his term. Two promissory notes he issued have been redeemed – trials are now conducted in a continuous, unbroken fashion and an oversight agency has been set up for the state prosecutor’s office. Two other notes are still pending – increasing the effectiveness of the war on organized crime and fighting corruption in municipalities and local councils. Right-wing politicians view him negatively, as a wielder of great power in blocking legislation they favor.
After four and a half years in office, with a team he strategically placed at the top of his and the state prosecutor’s offices, Weinstein has spanned more than one government, although with the same Benjamin Netanyahu. He is a veteran with more experience than some of the cabinet members, whose approval is required when it comes to senior appointments in the civil service, the army, the police and the Mossad.
The only thing more powerful than him is the elusive shadow of Boaz Harpaz, who has taken law-enforcement agencies on an endless roller-coaster ride. Reports from this stage of the Harpaz saga investigation suggest a scenario in which eyes and ears were shut in response to claims that were inconvenient to investigate. A picture emerges of a police force which is not smart and not corrupt: It not only looks for the proverbial dropped penny under the lamppost, but switches off the adjacent post. Investigators seem to be clapping with one hand, while the other is used to remove from the desk alleged transgressions by former Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
These were listed in the state comptroller’s report and cropped up in testimony given by some of those who were questioned in the affair. Barak, like an officer in an intelligence reconnaissance unit that erases tracks of its entry and departure, detested documentation and wiretapping. He held sensitive discussions in a small rest area in the Defense Minister’s bureau, or, on Saturdays, from his mother’s phone at Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon.
Weinstein has been accompanying the Harpaz affair since it first erupted. He phoned Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who was in a room with the military advocate general Avichai Mendelblit, informing him of approval for postponing the submission of the Harpaz letter to investigators (who weren’t informed of this) until after Harpaz finished his testimony before the Turkel commission, which was investigating the May 2010 Turkish flotilla incident in which activists were killed.
In its eagerness to question Mendelblit under caution, the police urged Weinstein to rush toward hurdles that may have been insurmountable, such as the admissibility of recordings made in the chief of staff’s bureau as evidence in a criminal trial, or the relations between a military advocate and his clients. Weinstein probably believes that he holds the reins in his hands, but from a public standpoint the process is more important than the result.
During the course of 2010, Weinstein’s inaugural year, the Malaysian plane called the State of Israel was about to be hijacked by pilot Barak and co-pilot Netanyahu. The plane’s security guards, who were recorded, became alarmed and concerned for the passengers’ safety. They tried to pre-empt the hijacking and the ensuing crash.
From a journalistic point of view, one hopes that the current attorney general or his successor will prosecute for breach of trust. This will not happen, since any decision will be tainted by Weinstein’s earlier involvement in dismissing the criminal case against the former head of Military Intelligence Eli Zeira, who was suspected of exposing the identity of Egyptian businessman Ashraf Marwan who had worked for Israel. That case was closed half-heartedly, “due to the circumstances.”
At this point, the worst option in the current case is to dismiss it after doing only half the work, namely investigating Ashkenazi and his entourage without investigating Barak and his circle. Weinstein will have to show up at the High Court of Justice when appeals against such dismissal will inevitably be filed, with full hands, not only clean ones.
As the Harpaz investigators delve into archaeology, the present reconstructs modes of behavior that characterized the cauldron of appointing a chief of staff. A task force of jurists and public relations officials operated along two paths – one was directed at disqualifying all prominent candidates for the top job and the other was aimed at clearing the way for Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant, who had been disqualified.
The police and State Prosecution have been blinded, not seeing a great opportunity that has dropped into their laps: One of the lawyers on the pro-Galant team has become involved in another criminal case and may reveal his associates in exchange for a plea bargain, as a state’s witness. The decision is in the attorney general’s hands.