The petition by cabinet secretary and former Military Advocate-General Avichai Mendelblit to the High Court of Justice against Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, in which Mendelblit demands a hearing before Weinstein closes the case against him in the so-called Harpaz affair for lack of evidence, reflects the deterioration of law enforcement that was spurred by current MAG Danny Efroni.
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In 1960, Israel’s second prime minister, Moshe Sharett, referring to the failed intelligence operation known as the Lavon Affair, used the term “mass grave” to describe a similar situation. Photos of cabinet meetings with the two current adversaries sitting at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s side only begin to scratch the bottom of the pit.
Efroni, a military intelligence officer who ended up military advocate general, returned to the army from civilian life solely due to pressure by former Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the spinelessness of former chief of general staff Benny Gantz. Efroni bears a grudge against Mendelblit, who had rejected him as his successor. It could be that Efroni is the greatest handler of intelligence agents among military prosecutors, and the greatest military prosecutor among handlers of intelligence agents, but senior officers in Military Intelligence and the Israel Defense Forces, who refused to appoint him commander the military prosecution, apparently didn’t think he was the greatest handler of intelligence agents among handlers of intelligence agents, nor the greatest military jurist among military jurists. Backed by former chief of general staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Mendelblit would have preferred his successor to be Col. Sharon Afek – who is in fact Chief of Staff Gabi Eisenkot’s choice to succeed Efroni. Efroni’s termination will be announced when the new government is formed and Afek’s appointment is approved by the new defense minister.
When Efroni won the lottery and was returned to the military, he paid Ashkenazi and Mendelblit back for their lack of support. He arranged a military investigation that turned into a criminal investigation into that part of the Harpaz forged document affair that wouldn’t implicate Barak and that spun into an endless, negligent, one-sided investigation. It took the police a year. Then prosecutor Toni Goldenberg sat on the material another nine months, with Mandelblit claiming that she exceeded her authority and revealed a bias against him in a conversation with a lawyer who supported his position. Such an allegation cannot be allowed to stand without an examination by the Justice Ministry ombudsman or even a criminal investigation of Goldenberg, all in the framework of the same mass grave.
When Goldenberg is finished, Weinstein – who for some reason did not disqualify himself from dealing with the Mendelblit case, in which he is a witness – will have to take time to go over her recommendations; if he decides to issue indictments, natural justice will obligate him to give the defense attorneys months to digest the material and challenge it in hearings. Mendelblit wants to stick a pin in this whole balloon, as if to cry, “Let me die with the prosecutors.” The police reported there is evidence against him, but he is not making do with the denial of this finding; it’s important to him that his case be closed “for absence of guilt,” and not just due to “lack of evidence.”
By closing a case on grounds of lack of evidence, the attorney general is essentially convicting the suspect himself, but believes that a judge will exonerate him. Yet the closure of two cases against Netanyahu for lack of evidence did not stop him from continuing to serve as prime minister or to return to that post. Nor did the closure of two such cases against Ariel Sharon block him from being elected and remaining prime minister.
Why then, is “lack of evidence” considered a stain on someone’s reputation? Is an accused who was exonerated any purer than a suspect who was not indicted and therefore never acquitted? And a prime minister whose cases were closed for lack of evidence, and who influences the appointment of the attorney general and the composition of the Judicial Appointments Committee, is more acceptable than someone in a senior legal position whose case was closed for lack of evidence?
The only logic in this madness is that it serves Netanyahu’s interests.