Weinstein and Lador Must Go

Tough prosecutors are needed to confront intelligent, sophisticated and cold-blooded characters like Lieberman.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has to announce his decision in the Avigdor Lieberman case next week, and immediately after he does so, he ought to shuffle down the hall to the office of Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and submit his resignation. And State Prosecutor Moshe Lador should do the same.

For close to three years, these two have prevaricated on a case involving the foreign minister and millions of dollars. They have made fools of themselves, and also of the public at large. The time and resources squandered at legal symposia on the Lieberman case, held in offices as well as hotels, could have been used to formulate numerous strategies for combating organized crime.

The lavish treatment accorded to the foreign minister not only traduces the principle of equality before the law; it also attests to the peculiar character and faulty decision-making ability of those who are supposed to fight for good government.

Hesitation is Weinstein's middle name. This private attorney, who for years scrambled to climb to the top of Israel's legal pyramid, has yet to record anything of note, other than a term marked by equivocation.Virtually none of the sensitive cases on his desk have been decided: Like the Lieberman affair, the alleged forgery of the Galant letter and allegations of corruption among acting mayors have yet to be decided by Weinstein.

The attorney general's term has fit Israel's ruling elite like a glove. The more he equivocates, the better life is for the country's entrenched power brokers.

Lador is Weinstein's total partner in this insufferable game of prevarication. The state prosecutor's self-confidence, along with the self-confidence of his associates, plummeted to a nadir when three district court judges decided to acquit former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs, thereby allowing Israeli politicians to receive envelopes stuffed with cash during secret meetings, held in glittering hotels, with interested parties.

Whether or not the case is closed or the harshest of the accusations dropped, the Lieberman case is the first corruption affair to be influenced by Olmert's partial exoneration. More cases are on deck. Any expectation that Lador and Weinstein might exhibit leadership during a time when the lines between right and wrong have been blurred is sorely in vain.

Up until the Olmert acquittals, Weinstein and Lador still believed it would be possible to convict Lieberman. Following the Olmert rulings, they have shown weakness and equivocation.

They are not cut from the cloth needed in a society perched on a slippery slope over an abyss of corruption. They are not Israeli versions of Italian prosecuting magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who were murdered 20 years ago by the mafia after they waged a heroic effort to break up the deadly ties between the underworld and Italy's Christian-Democrat political elite.

Israel's top legal officials rationalize the snail's pace in the Lieberman case by alluding to its complexity and the fact that many phases in the drama unfolded overseas in tax havens, in countries that were not thrilled to cooperate. Also, they say, it has not been clear whether overseas witnesses would agree to give testimony in Israeli courts.

Yet the truth is that most corruption cases in this era have international dimensions and involve an array of languages. Very rarely does a schlemiel like ex-Finance Minister Abraham Hirschson place the fruits of his corruption in Israeli bank accounts; putting someone like him behind bars is no big deal.

Tough prosecutors are needed to confront intelligent, sophisticated and cold-blooded characters like Lieberman. The country is not well-served by this pair of indecisive, phlegmatic legal officials, who would continue to equivocate about prosecuting powerful offenders even if a smoking gun were placed in their laps.