There's no need to rub your eyes in disbelief. It's happening. In a country inundated with governmental corruption such as Israel, where the celebrated author David Grossman (who recently lost his son in the second Lebanon war) calls the leadership "hollow," five professors wake up one morning and claim that the power bestowed on the state comptroller is disturbing and they proceed to aggressively attack the rule of law.
According to these professors, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is the enemy. It is he, and not the corruption, that must be wiped out.
This conduct by those sitting in their ivory towers is not incidental. Every time an elected representative is suspected of corruption, the recruited choir immediately breaks out in songs of praise to save his soul. They attack the contemptible people who dare investigate their favored sons, they send poisoned arrows towards witnesses and complainants, and they stick knives into those who dare rise up against their protégés. They fear nothing.
Best defense is offense
Yet this ugly and ridiculous campaign usually achieves the exact opposite: It contributes to the loss of credibility and creates antagonism towards the accused or the person being investigated. As the attack on decision makers becomes fiercer so does the impression that the accused or the suspect is in distress. It indicates that the accused/suspect has not succeeded in the real battlefield and is attempting to divert the fire towards the attackers. The best defense, as we know, is offense - and this is exactly what the undersigned of the newspaper ad have done.
Before touching on this masterpiece ad, it's worth mentioning the undersigned names: Chairman of the Democracy Institute Professor Arik Carmon, two law school deans: Yoav Dotan from Hebrew University and Professor Yaffa Zilberschatz from Bar Ilan University, and two Israel Prize laureates, Professor Amnon Rubinstein and Professor Shlomo Avineri. These are the advocates. Well, here's some food for thought.
These five professors are seriously arguing that they are deeply concerned by the fact that the state comptroller has overstepped his authority. When did this actually occur? Was it when he completed an investigation into the purchase of one of Olmert's apartments in less than a month, ruling that the price was reasonable? When he probed the sale of Bank Leumi for almost a year without any information leaking out? When he exposed the affair of Ehud Olmert and his personal friend attorney Uri Messer involving suspicions of fraudulently taking tens of millions of shekels from the investment bid? Was it when he investigated dozens of other sensitive cases, including that of Shimon Peres, where severe findings were revealed?
Did some other crucial finding published in the final report turn out to be a terrible mistake? So what is so disturbing to these professors? It is indeed something terrible: The attorney is stepping into territory traditionally handled by the police and the prosecution. Instead of dealing with trivialities he is dealing with governmental corruption. According to these learned professors he has not been authorized to do this.
Not letting anyone off the hook
But he is authorized to do this, and they would be advised to do some homework first. But even if he were not authorized, what's wrong with it? In a country that until recently had no attorney general, state prosecutor or chief of investigations, the state comptroller was called upon to fill this vacuum. Many complainants directed their rage at him. He absorbed the information; he checked and did the housecleaning. He didn't let anyone off the hook.
To be honest, there was an unfortunate mishap in the appointment of the state comptroller: The majority of Knesset members thought they were appointing a docile poodle from Haifa, and they ended up with an Alsatian dog. This is not what they bargained for. Yet despite this, had this Alsatian shut its eyes and skipped over the suspicions of governmental crime, would these ads have been published in the press? Do these professors have any idea what they signed and what's happening in reality?
Have they heard of prime ministers whose best friends are dangerous criminals? They have. And what did they do about that? Did they publish an ad in the newspaper condemning the prime minister, calling on him to distance himself from the world of crime? Did they ever call for the suspension of ministers in sensitive positions and mayors suspected of extortion? Did they demand that Channel 10 TV stop employing a commentator with a criminal background who served a three year prison sentence?
All this doesn't seem to bother them. So what does make them lose sleep at night? The state comptroller's incursion into the realms of the police and prosecution. Oy gevalt! Firstly, there is no such thing. The state comptroller is permitted to investigate public corruption and he is obliged to transfer criminal suspicions to the police (via the attorney general).
Secondly, have they ever heard of obstruction of justice and coordination of testimony? What is the state comptroller supposed to do when he reaches a point where the continuation of his investigation could hinder a police investigation? Should he sweep his findings under the rug?
Absolutely not. He should channel the material to criminal avenues. And this is exactly what he is doing. He deserves some praise for this, certainly not a defamation ad in the press.