Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Attorney, the Minister, and the Insinuations

Continuing our reading of the documents about the High Court of Justice's ruling to disband the settlement of Elon Moreh in 1979 and the government's response:

One of the discussions on the margins of the main event was about how the government lost the case. In a number of the cabinet meetings (we'll talk about them later) Ariel Sharon muttered, and later said outright, that the Attorney General's staff hadn't prepared the case correctly, and they were to blame that the government had lost the case and was now forced to dismantle the settlement.

Each time Sharon said this, Yitzhak Zamir, the Attorney General, objected. Eventually, on January 6th 1980, Zamir sent a letter of protest to Menachem Begin. The allegations, he said, were never true and even had the specifics they were based on been true, there was nothing in them to change the court's decision. Since the minister kept on repeating them, however, he asked the Solicitor General to look into the matter. Zamir attached the result of that investigation to his letter. He also suggested that politicians might wish to be considerate of civil servants doing their jobs.

A few comments come to mind. First, politicians the world over, from all political camps and ideological stripes, sometimes like to propagate sloppy versions of events which subsequently become urban legends. Israeli politicians are as human as any others in this respect. Second, sometimes such fibs can be shot down early in their flight, but most of them can't, and sending a letter documenting the truth is not a particularly effective way of doing the shooting. Third, eventually the archives can reveal what was actually going on, and historians, unlike politicians, journalists and bloggers, can be expected to relate to the facts, not only the myths. (Assuming anyone still cares.)

Finally, on a totally different note: the three legal types involved in this particular exchange - Zamir the Attorney General, Gabriel Bach the Solicitor General, and the young department head in the Ministry of Justice who carried out the actual investigation and reported on her findings, one Dorit Beinish - each eventually ended up as a justice on the Supreme Court. Beinish was even the Chief Justice until she retired earlier this year. Israel is a small place, but not so small that by heaving a single brick you're likely to hit three future Supreme Court justices. Rather, it's a place where sometimes talent concentrates in specific corners, and once there is propelled forward as far as it can go.

Just as in other countries, I expect.

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