The plea bargain that the Justice Ministry has signed with Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto is worrisome and raises serious concerns about the steadfastness of the rule of law in Israel. The deal calls for Pinto to get a maximum of a year in prison in return for admitting he had given hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes to Israel Police Brig. Gen. Efraim Bracha, and his agreement to be a state’s witness in the trial of former Lahav 433 commander Maj. Gen. (ret.) Menashe Arviv.
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Nine months ago the state prosecution informed Pinto’s attorneys that it planned to file an indictment against him for several alleged crimes, among them paying bribes to police officers, using halakhic (Jewish legal) threats to intimidate witnesses, and threatening a senior police officer. On the eve of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein’s planned announcement of the indictment, Pinto’s attorneys came to Weinstein and told him that the rabbi had incriminating information about a very senior police officer (Arviv). They asked Weinstein to delay the announcement in return for giving him the information.
Over the strenuous objections of then-State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, Weinstein decided to accept the offer, and subsequently Pinto supplied information about various benefits Arviv had allegedly received from him and his adherents. The contacts between Pinto’s lawyers and the attorney general and top prosecutors lasted several months, even though Arviv resigned from the Israel Police, and the end result was this controversial plea agreement.
The sentence the prosecution is requesting for Pinto is very moderate for someone who admits paying hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes to a senior police official, but that’s not the only thing wrong with the deal. It would behoove the state to put Pinto on trial, so that he would be forced to expose the untoward relationships between his dominion and senior police and government officials, and the deals allegedly made behind closed doors at his facilities in Ashdod and Manhattan. This information will remain hidden under this plea bargain, despite the public interest in having it disclosed.
Coming after the closing of the straw-companies case against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the scrapping of the “Bibi-Tours” case, which dealt with the funding of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trips abroad, this plea bargain strengthens the impression that Weinstein cannot deal with government corruption cases effectively. In the battle of wills between him and Pinto, the desired result would have been putting Arviv on trial with no connection to the filing of charges against Pinto. There’s a black flag hovering over this plea bargain, and it would be best if it weren’t implemented. If it is submitted to the court, the court would do well to reject it.