Monday, March 09, 2009

Justice Israeli Style

The coalition talks are nearly finished. An Israeli government is expected by next week. Avigdor Lieberman has by common consent among journalist come out of the talks the clear winner. His Israel Beiteinu party may have only won sixteen seats, but he has maneuvered himself into position to approve the appointment of the Minister of Justice, Foreign Minister, Finance Minister and Minister of Transport, as well as Minister of Housing.

How many of these portfolios will go to his party remains an open question which is not expected to be solved until Wednesday of next week.

Most pundits expect that the Likud’s Moshe ‘Bugi” Ayalon will be the next Minister of Defense, replacing Labor’s Ehud Barak, who is expected to go into the opposition with his 13 Labor Knesset seats. The Mininstry of Justice may go to Lieberman’s choice, Prof. Daniel Friedman, the current minister.

Many commentators question the wisdom of allowing Lieberman, who has been under investigation for fraud and corruption for ten years, to choose the next Minister of Justice. He is also allowed to choose the Public Security Minister that oversees the police. This job has apparently fallen to former police chief Aranovitch.

When questioned on Israel radio this morning Aranovitch claimed that he would be completely impartial, and not be influenced by Lieberman should his case come up before him. Other pundits wonder how Aranovitch could remain impartial over a case involving the head of his own party.

Another line of thought in the media is that Lieberman will not be in any position very long since the Police are soon to bring down an indictment against him, that will force him to resign. In that case some think.having friends in high places, like Friedman and Aranovitch, might prove very helpful,

Whatever happens, it is clear that Lieberman, at least now, has shown himself to be a skilled negotiator. And will probably keep the Finance Mininstry for himself.

The Kadima party seems bent on going into the opposition, to the dismay of Prime Minister designate Netanyahu. The incoming Prime Minister has expressed his displeasure over Kadima’s refusal to join the coalition. His supporters’ say that Netanyahu has done everything he could to form a broad coalition. Others maintain that he is deeply uncomfortable with a narrow right-wing government, especially one that relies on the whims of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi Shas party.

Shas, according to press reports, had been promised 2 billion shekels from the national budget if they would support Netanyahu when Tzipi Livni was trying to form a coalition. However, Shas has been known to jump sides in political maneuvering and is not considered a reliable partner.

Most analysts say that the Netanyahu government will be so weak that both Labor and Kadima will join within a year under very favorable terms. Others wonder at the fireworks in the Knesset when his party takes on the Israeli Arabs, whom Lieberman has called traitors for supporting Hezbollah and Hamas during recent conflicts.

Former President Moshe Katzav will probably be indicted soon for the rape of a former employee of the Ministry of Tourism and another at the President’s bureau. However, by most accounts, the Attorney General’s office doesn’t really have enough evidence to convict Katzav but is rather tossing the decision at the court. A conviction is not a sure thing. The case has already taken three years to come to court.

Former Supreme Court head Judge Aaron Barak has said that when he was the Attorney General his office would not bring a case to trial unless they were certain they would win. Barak castigated the current Attorney General’s office, run by Manny Mazuz, for trying cases in the press long before they reached court. This was not the way to protect citizens’ rights, nor pursue justice, Barak reportedly said.

A local Jerusalem attorney said that neither the police nor the State’s Attorney’s office was strongly in favor of the indictment, citing the weak case against Katzav.This attorney said that Attorney General Mazuz was new to the job with no criminal trial background when the Katzav case was brought before him.

The Katzav case rests essentially on the evidence of one woman, a former employee, who reportedly first tried to blackmail Katzav, threatening to go public with his unwanted sexual advances, including him forcing her to have sex with him in his office. The woman demanded money to keep quiet.

It was Katzav, the local attorney pointed out, who went to the police with the blackmail threat. The result was that Katzav was indicted and the woman is now the primary witness against him.

The local attorney also criticized Justice Minister Daniel Friedman for carrying out vendettas rather than implanting a fair policy and just policy for the Justice Ministry to follow. Friedman, sources report, had been livid over not receiving an appointment to the Supreme Court, and has been out for revenge on the judges ever since. He has gone on a campaign to restructure the way judges are appointed, saying it should be left to politicians, not the Supreme Court as it is now.

Friedman, said the local attorney, has a reputation of being brilliant, but unstable. Under Aaron Barak’s leadership at the Supreme Court right wing groups were constantly bemoaning Barak’s imposing what they saw as his left-wing ideology on the Israeli public. Friedman swore to reverse most of Barak’s policies. Incoming right-wing powerhouse Avigdor Lieberman wants Friedman to stay in his position. Barak frequently came out against the settlement movement in favor of Palestinians, claim the right-wingers.

Analysts say that Likud prince Dan Meridor had his eye on the Justice Ministry, and that it was promised him if he returned from the political wilderness and took an active part in the Likud’s run at the Knesset. Former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was reportedly promised the Foreign Ministry in exchange for support of Bibi Netanyahu. Both men are apparently going to be disappointed.

However, one pundit said that it is possible Lieberman may still not appoint Friedman to the Justice Ministry, since Friedman may appear to be a toady of Lieberman’s. In that case Meridor would get the job. The same may be true of the Foreign Mininstry, with Lieberman allowing Likud prince Silvan Shalom the job. Lieberman would then get other senior cabinet Ministries for Israel Beitenu’s Knesset members.

The bickeringt between out-going PM Ehud Olmert and outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak is still raging. Olmert reportedly blames Barak for fouling the deal for a release of Gilad Shalit, while Barak blames Olmert for scotching the deal he had made through Egypt for a Hamas cease-fire. Both men appear to be headed off the political stage in a sulk.

Meanwhile Gilad Shalit has been in a Hamas cell for 988 days, with no end in sight.