Election-season Investigation Is Not Political Persecution

Allowing probe to move forward now is right move, despite the sensitive timing and the risk of being accused of ulterior motives.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Faina Kirshenbaum. Subject of a police probe into bribe-taking and corruption.
Faina Kirshenbaum. Subject of a police probe into bribe-taking and corruption.
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

The publicizing of the investigation centering on Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum and former Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov poses some complex challenges for law enforcement, because this probe, like many corruption investigations before it, is reaching its critical stages during a general election campaign.

The fact that the senior officials who are suspects in the case belong to a single party, one that has been investigated in the past, exposes the police, the prosecutors and the attorney general to claims of political bias and intent to influence the election results.

Such claims have been heard before. In 2003, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon complained that the Cyril Kern case, involving allegations that he had received millions of dollars of bribes from the South African businessman, broke just before elections. It turned out in retrospect that the leak of the investigation to Haaretz, by prosecutor Leora Glatt-Berkowitz, was intended to provide voters with relevant information about someone who was soliciting their trust, itself a worthy consideration. But the storm surrounding the revelations led then-Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein to freeze corruption investigations during the election season and refrain from issuing recommendations regarding evidence that had been gathered in such cases.

Supreme Court justices last year also expressed displeasure with the fact that drawn-out investigations of incumbent mayors seemed to be producing indictments in the run-up to municipal elections. But in those cases, as in the Sharon case, the lengthy investigations had been progressing without any regard to political developments.

The head of the party to which the suspects in the latest affair belong, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has often railed that every milestone in his investigations, such as a court hearing or the issuing of police recommendations, coincided with the convention of his party’s central committee or the approach of Pesach. Taking such considerations into account would leave very few days on the calendar for law enforcement to do its work, it would seem.

The heads of this investigation, therefore, chiefly Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, did well to allow it to move forward now, despite the sensitive timing and at the risk of being accused of having ulterior motives. Any other decision would itself have been a biased choice influenced by inappropriate political considerations. Voters are entitled to the maximum information about their elected officials, including about legal proceedings, particularly during election season.

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