Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Martyrdom of Avigdor Lieberman

The Martyrdom of Avigdor Lieberman
By Steven Plaut

In 1999, Benjamin Netanyahu lost the Israeli election to leftist
Ehud Barak to the squealing delight of Israel's conscripted media and
of many in its judicial system. At the time, a criminal investigation
was launched against Netanyahu for supposedly misappropriating
property from the Prime Minister's residency. He had to leave it in
a hurry to turn it over to his successor, and supposedly had absconded
with some trinkets and gifts that had been given to him as Prime
Minister but really belonged to the residency, not to him personally.
Nothing much came of the "investigation," other than it serving as an
illustration of how the judicial Left in Israel and the chronically
politicized Prosecutor's Office file politically-motivated indictments
and open politically-motivated criminal investigations.

In Israel there is a long tradition of the Left using prosecution to
get its way, especially when the Israeli voter refuses to endorse what
the Left wants. In the investigation of Netanyahu, it was naked
lawfare payback for Netanyahu's having dared to beat the Left in the
previous election.

All of which brings us to the political persecution of Israeli Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The Left has always had a problem with
Lieberman, and it is NOT just political ideology. Avigdor started a
political career from nothing and turned his party into the second
strongest in Israel. He recently merged it into the Likud and the
merger is expected to capture a third of Knesset seats according to
polls. Lieberman, with his chunky demeanor and very heavy Russian
accent, basically took the entire Russian-Israeli vote away from the
better known Natan Sharansky and channeled it into his own powerhouse.
And he is increasingly attracting non-Russian Israeli voters who like
what he represents. One of his senior party co-leaders is the
intelligent sabra professor Uzi Landau. (For the sake of full
disclosure, I should reveal that my wife was Landau's student.)

Lieberman is blunt spoken and has no qualms about denouncing
anti-Israel Israeli Arabs. That makes the Left hysterical, and there
have been attempts by the Left to get him barred from running on
grounds that he is a "racist." This same Left, by the way, just
managed to prohibit the election slogan of a different party as
"racist," when that party put up posters that read: "Without duties
and obligations there can be no rights." The same Left, which insists
that the terrorist and anti-Semitic fascist Haneen Zoabi should be
free to run for the Knesset of the very same country she insists has
no right to exist at all, has been insisting that this previous slogan
is anti-Arab and so must be prohibited as "racism." You need to
understand that in the conscripted Israeli media, the word racism can
ONLY refer to Jewish resentment regarding the behavior of Arabs and it
can never refer to Arab mass murders, Arab plans for genocide, nor
Arab hatred towards Jews.

Ten years ago, the politicized Prosecutor's Office opened an
investigation against Lieberman, supposedly for corruption. It
dragged its feet for a full decade. It regularly attempted to prevent
Lieberman and his party from succeeding in the elections by releasing
statements a few weeks before every single election in those ten
years, saying criminal charges were about to be filed against him.
But none ever were.

The upcoming elections and the current campaign season in Israel have
been no different. For months the Prosecutors were playing
Whispering Down the Land with the media, and leaking that they had
found horrific dirt about Lieberman and were about to file criminal
charges against him, making it sound as if he were dirtier than a
Moscow oligarch gangster.

And just when the election season was reaching its climax, this past
week the Prosecutor made a startling announcement. It was dropping
95% of the prospective charges it had been investigating against
Lieberman for lack of evidence, while hinting clearly they thought he
was guilty of them, citing things like witnesses having died over the
decade and misplaced evidence. Many of these involved "suspicions"
that Lieberman had continued to draw salary and income from various
businesses he ran even while sitting as a Knesset Member, which he is
not supposed to do, some nominally managed by his daughter. The
companies themselves were all legitimate though.

Aside from the 95% dismissal, the Prosecutors retained basically one
single charge against Lieberman, claiming he was guilty of corruption
and accepting a bribe in what the media are calling the "Ambassador
Affair," and demanding that he resign. Let us bear in mind that
Lieberman was not CONVICTED of any crime, just that the Prosecution
announced plans to indict him for one! At first Lieberman dismissed
the charges as silly, but then late Friday afternoon he announced he
was resigning as Foreign Minister. It is not clear yet if he will
nevertheless run for the next parliament as part of his joint slate
with the Likud.

So just what was that single charge against Lieberman? The only one
the prosecution believes that it can make stick? Ironically, I doubt
that one Israeli in 100 knows or can answer that question, and I only
found one story in the entire weekend press that answered the
question. I will let you in on the answer in a minute.

Before spilling the beans, let us note the long list of cases of
out-and-out corruption that the Prosecutor's Offices in Israel have
NOT pursued in indictments. The most notorious is Ehud Olmert, whose
sleaze and criminality would be remarkable even in the worst Third
World countries. Olmert openly demanded and accepted envelops stuffed
with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in order to assist
developers in bypassing Israeli zoning laws and getting other corrupt
favors. (Like with Tony Soprano, the cash was always inside
envelops!) Olmert is walking around free and has yet to be indicted.
Does that have anything to do with the fact that he abandoned his
"hawkish" political ideology and served the agenda of the Far Left
while in office?

Leftists Ehud Barak and Amram Mitzna, who spent most of their public
careers in the Labor Party, are only marginally less dirty than Olmert
and neither was ever indicted for anything. The election financings
for both of these were masterpieces in bypassing or defying Israeli
campaign finance laws. And they are not the only ones never indicted
for such violations. The leftist founder of Peace Now, Hebrew
University professor Amiram Goldblum, was also (by his own admission)
involved in breaking those same campaign finance laws on behalf of
Barak, but the Prosecutor decided to "postpone" prosecution of
Goldblum. Forever.

Other examples of the dual judicial and prosecutorial system that
operates in Israel, one for the Far Left and the other for everyone
else, could fill an encyclopedia.

But back to Lieberman. I cannot tell you that I consider him to be a
squeaky clean politician nor one with the personal ethical standards
of, say, Menachem Begin or George Washington. And frankly I suspect
he is involved in some corner cutting and rule bending. But any
misbehavior on his part is peanuts compared with the blatant
criminality of Ehud Olmert and some other politicians from the Left.

So just what was Avigdor's horrid crime? The one the Prosecution
plans to move forward with to trial?

It turns out that a few years back the Prosecution's Office was trying
to solicit evidence against Lieberman from the Belarus government,
including about a bank account supposedly under Lieberman's control in
some local Belarus bank. The Israeli ambassador to Belarus at the
time, one Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, learned about the formal request for the
information that the Israeli prosecutor had sent to the Belarus
government. Ben Aryeh then tipped off Lieberman about it, and even
gave him the number of the bank account whose information the Israeli
prosecutors had requested.

Now I am no lawyer, Thanks be to the Creator, and I am not even sure
that passing on that information to Lieberman was a crime at all. And
if it were one, then it was a crime committed by Ben Aryeh, not
Lieberman. Lieberman by the way says he never even looked in the
envelop with the bank number. I cannot say that I believe him but I
must also say that I would have peeked myself if it were me. Note how
upset the Prosecutor is over this envelop, but not over any of those
envelops stuffed with dollar cash handed over to the don Ehud Olmert!!

The end of the saga though is that, a couple of years later, Lieberman
was made Israeli Foreign Minister. As such, he had the power to
appoint diplomats and he appointed the very same Ben Aryeh as
Ambassador to Latvia. Now Belarus is a much bigger country than
Latvia, and I am not even sure this counts as a promotion. The
Prosecution "suspects" that it was a payback reward for Ben Aryeh
helping Lieberman out by having passed on the information about the
criminal investigation against him. Lieberman says he appointed him
because he was competent, experienced, and speaks fluent Russian.

Lots of luck to the Israeli Attorney General in proving otherwise.
Lots of luck to Israeli democracy in surviving when the Prosecutor's
Office functions as a partisan wing of the Left!

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