The investigation against HaRav Ovadia Yosef for his remarks
in his motzei Shabbos talk criticizing Education Minister
Yossi Sarid and comparing him to Amolek, try as one might,
can hardly be seen as a purely legalistic concern for the
rule of law. As much as we would like to believe otherwise,
this and other actions of the legal and police establishment
are carried out in a way that loudly proclaims that the
motives are deeply sullied by extraneous considerations.
HaRav Yosef is as much a political as a religious leader. His
remarks are no more incendiary than those of the Leftist
icons that he criticizes. If Yossi Sarid proclaims
gratuitously and provocatively from the Knesset podium that
he works on Shabbos, with full and calculated awareness of
the incendiary nature of his activities to some, he is
inciting to violence as much as someone else who proclaims
that Sarid is a mechalel Shabbos. If Israel Prize
nominee (by Education Minister Sarid) Shulamit Aloni compares
the rabbinical leaders to Islamic fundamentalists or Roman
tyrants, she does not do so as a compliment.
Sarid is no less divisive than the former leader of his
party, and he is smarter and more effective.
HaRav Yosef has had a long career and he has never been known
to preach violence. Attorney General Rubinstein should have
attended enough speeches to know that rabbinical figures
speak to encourage directed prayer, and not physical
As Ha'aretz wrote, in recommending that "it is not
appropriate to use legal tools to put the Shas leader in his
place": "The Israeli legal system gives the Attorney General
broad discretion, and he need not prosecute everyone who
breaks a law. In political areas he must keep away from
interfering with freedom of expression, even in cases that
are not pleasant."
This discretion is well known. Prosecutors are able to close
a case that has merit simply on the basis that the public has
no interest in it. Thus, it is hard to explain the decision
of the Attorney General as a dispassionate application of the
law, and much easier to understand it as an attempt to
intimidate the expression of political opinions that are not
desired by those doing the deciding.
Police also choose what and whom to investigate -- and how to
investigate them. In the past week they concluded a seven-
month-long investigation into the affairs of former Prime
Minister Netanyahu with a recommendation to prosecute him.
In the long and very public investigation that they
conducted, the police seem to have spared no effort to
undermine confidence in their objectivity. Every step of the
investigation was reported in great detail in the press, and
the media knew about police raids soon enough to be waiting
with their cameras. Information about the results was
constantly fed to the eager press. It is hard to believe that
someone was not out to blacken Netanyahu's name.
Everyone would certainly be happy to believe that these
actions and decisions are the professional and objective
actions of dedicated public servants. However the age of
naive faith in the purity of the motives of the decision-
makers has long passed. The doubts that arise must concern
anyone who truly worries about the rule of law.