Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's letter to investigative journalist Aryeh Avneri presents Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson in an extremely unfavorable light. There is a strong wind of complete contempt for what he calls the finance minister's "paranoia," stemming from Hirchson's hysterical outburst at the Caesaria Conference last month and calling it a short-sighted manipulation of public opinion. Hirchson was warned against such a media spin, but failed to heed the warning.
Turns out that Hirchson's paranoia– as the finance minister himself told the attorney general – stemmed from "journalists questions on a number of subjects." As if it is inappropriate for an investigative journalist to ask questions and demand answers from a government minister.
Right man for the job?
The incident raises another question: Is Mr. Hirchson an appropriate person to serve as Israel's finance minister, to hold the steering wheel over the national economy. And, at least as of this writing, the answer would seem to a resounding "no."
Either Hirchson must supply the attorney general with written proof to back up his wild accusations, or he must resign with no further ado or excuses.
The attorney general told Mr. Hirchson that his claims had "no evidence that would justify a criminal investigation or other official action." Despite this, Hirchson chose to open his speech at the Caesaria Conference with a series of accusations the like of which was unprecedented in the annals of Israel's economic administration.
He presented Israel as a sort of Sicily at the time of its violent mafia, a place in which economic players allow themselves to threaten the finance minister and his family in order to thwart national policy objectives.
No formal complaint
Now, it seems the attorney general feels Hirchson was just blowing smoke. Even after his speech Hirchson did nothing to back up his claims. He has presented no written complaint, presented no details and forced the attorney general to publish a letter painting the finance minister in a ridiculous, pathetic light. "We understand the minister has decided not to file a written complaint," was the dry, cynical end to the letter.
Hirchson's behavior has revealed several characteristics that are incompatible with his standing as finance minister: he lost his cool, ran from personal responsibility, couldn't stand up to a journalist's questions and looked for scapegoats. He even used the honorable stage of the Israel Democracy Institute to launch an attack against investigative journalism.
Storm won't blow over
Mr. Hirchson may be counting on the fact that Israeli public opinion has a tendency to forget scandals quickly, and he seems to think the current storm will "blow over."
But people will not forget his wild accusations (they don’t appear in the official text of Hirchson's address of on the finance ministry's website). With his own hands, Hirchson has destroyed his credibility, the most valuable asset any finance minister can have. With his own mouth, he has inflated a balloon of empty accusations that the attorney general popped with one flick of a needle.
We must wonder how such an individual can be trusted to guide the Israeli economy, and how he will act in a crisis.