Upcoming Decisions

Two cases arousing unusual public interest by their very nature are expected to see court rulings soon.

The expression "after the holidays," supposedly an assurance things will be decided, has become a symbol of delay. The satirist Ephraim Kishon, a keen observer of Israeli society, said the phrase really meant it would never happen. Songwriter Naomi Shemer gave the phrase an optimistic spin when she wrote "after the holidays, everything will be renewed." Anyway, promising decisions after the holidays doesn't indicate how long after the holidays they will be made.

In the legal world, whose decisions sometimes can be made only after thorough examination and analysis with respect to putting someone on trial or court rulings, issues to be decided after the holidays have taken on a particular urgency, especially after the summer, when the police, the prosecutor's office and the courts are required to take vacation at the same time.

Thus, the attorney general and the state prosecutor cannot delay decisions in the Holyland affair, a case the police consider points to substantial evidence of alleged government corruption. The prosecutor has been involved from the early stages, and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and the prosecution must decide if they have a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction. No doubt, this particularly important decision will have implications for (among the prominent accused ) two former Jerusalem mayors, Ehud Olmert and Uri Lupolianski.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will apparently continue to make a mockery of the governance of the State of Israel when he takes exception at a public appearance at the United Nations to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fundamental policy positions. The prime minister has the legal authority to remove a minister who takes exception to his policies, as Ariel Sharon did. He simply has to notify the cabinet of his intention to do so. Law and authority are one thing. Politics is another. The High Court of Justice made it clear it would not intervene in a prime minister's judgment when Sharon decided to dismiss ministers who objected to his policies.

Netanyahu may, unsurprisingly, be waiting for the attorney general's decision whether Lieberman should stand trial on serious charges, as the police have recommended, or on at least some of them. The case against Lieberman is difficult and complicated and how to proceed is apparently not an easy decision. The attorney general should expedite his staff's diligent work while making clear this involves deciding how to proceed on a highly significant case with a number of aspects.

Weinstein won't be able to indict even if he believes there is sufficient evidence against Lieberman and a reasonable prospect of a conviction. Initially, he can say only that he is "considering" putting the foreign minister on trial, after which Lieberman's lawyers would have the right to state their client's case. So, it can be assumed a decision will be deferred by several months, coming perhaps after Hanukkah.

Two cases arousing unusual public interest by their very nature are expected to see court rulings soon. The more important one is a verdict on former president Moshe Katzav on the charge of rape (which carries a maximum sentence of 16 years in prison ), forcible indecent assault and sexual harassment. The verdict will stir public feelings and magnify the significance of a conviction or acquittal. No doubt, the district court panel headed by respected Judge George Karra has devoted substantial effort in reaching a verdict. The public must be convinced of the quality of the verdict and the good judgment that went into it, whatever the decision.

Sentencing of MK Tzachi Hanegbi, which is expected soon, follows a complex and tangled verdict based on both majority and minority opinions of the judges. Public interest will focus on the extent of the seriousness of Hanegbi's conduct in being convicted of perjury in evidence given to the chairman of the Central Election Commission. The magistrate's court faces the difficult question of whether the conviction involves moral turpitude; at its core this is an ethical issue rather than a legal one. A finding of moral turpitude could harm Hanegbi's freedom of occupation as a politician and result in his immediate suspension from the Knesset, though he would have the right to appeal.

So things will be happening after the holidays.