The day after the prime minister’s investigation
Op-ed: The only solution to the delay of justice in public figures’ investigations is dividing the attorney general’s authorities between two people. In addition, there is a need to prevent investigations against an incumbent prime minister while limiting his time in office to two terms.
What they all have in common is the long time they were subject to the mercy of the law and legal system, and mainly the storm on the background of the investigations.
“The sword comes into the world for the delay of justice,” it says in Pirkei Avot (a compilation of the ethical teachings and maxims of Mishnaic-period rabbis)—and the State of Israel has officially adopted the Jewish tradition on this issue, but only officially.
Defense Minister Avgidor Lieberman was investigated for 10 years, and eventually came out with nothing. During this time, the attorney general had trouble deciding which case to focus on, how many and why. Witnesses disappeared, files were covered with dust—until it was over.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walked around with the shadow of the Bibi Tours affair for years, until the shadow disappeared by virtue of the statue of limitations. Rachael Risby-Raz, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s advisor from the Rishon Tours affair, has been in legal proceedings since 2009. Now the eighth year is beginning, and it’s not over yet.
If the religious parties really cared about the State of Israel’s Jewish identity, such matters would cause them to take to the streets. A mobilization order for a yeshiva student is not prohibited by the Torah, but the Torah does prohibit delay of justice, holdover of pay and other damage caused to common people and high-ranking officials.
Investigations of public figures are always complicated and sensitive and are always characterized by interests, yet there is not one logical reason for the unreasonable time they take. The more basic problem lies in the job of the attorney general—a legally engineered hybrid that is supposed to be at once a defense counsel and a prosecutor, both a close advisor and the individual responsible for prosecution at the same time.
There is not a single human being who is capable of accomplishing this mission and getting out of it in one piece. And in Netanyahu’s context, advising a person on legal issues, sitting next to him during work meetings, and then deciding to turn over his life and ruin his career. Whoever decides to launch an investigation, as Avichai Mandelblit did, does so unwillingly. And when the time arrives to decide on an indictment, most attorney generals will crumble.
The only solution to this situation is a separation of powers: One person who will serve as an advisor and defense counsel and another person who serve as head of the prosecution. Prosecuting and defending a client at the same time (regardless of whether it is the Israeli government or the prime minister) is a bad Israeli invention.
Another problem is the multiple investigations of public figures and the fact that they are turned into a political tool. Last week, someone brought out of the archives calls made by Yuval Steinitz and Benjamin Netanyahu on Ehud Olmert to resign as prime minister as soon as a criminal investigation was launched against him.
They were adamant and uncompromising in their support for the police and their demand that he resign. The political rule is: What is hated by you, do to your rival. Those who were against handling Olmert with kid gloves began handling Netanyahu with kid gloves last week. And those who were in favor of keeping Olmert out of public criticism in the past are now calling for an investigation and urging Netanyahu to draw conclusions.
In this case too, the only solution is changing the attitude towards an incumbent prime minister: Preventing investigations until a certain criminal limit, while restricting a prime minister’s time in office to two terms. I accept Netanyahu’s statement from the 1990s: “What a prime minister failed to do in two terms he will fail to do after that.” Eventually, time turns most of the job into an ongoing political campaign. A prime minister needs limited time and full immunity during that time in order to be able to work peacefully and efficiently.
And here are the ramifications of Netanyahu’s current investigations. So far, while we don’t know much, a few things must be said: First of all, hedonism necessarily leads to investigations. Grey areas are painted black at some point, regardless of the results of the investigation. This is a repeated lesson which has not been learned. It is the difference between the days of Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin and those who came after them.
Second, a prime minister’s investigation harms the state. The twilight period is dangerous. Therefore, the investigation must be quick and conclusions must be drawn one way or the other. Third, another prime minister in jail is a very dubious certificate of good character, even for those who don’t support Netanyahu. And fourth, the malfunctions must be repaired on the day the investigation ends, and not as Likud MK David Amsalem suggested.