If George Orwell were alive today, he would glory in the instance of the Leora Glatt-Berkowitz affair, as a classic example of “doublespeak.” A breach of law, integrity and ethics is brazenly committed by a senior prosecutor of the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s office, and out comes a chorus line of columnists and academics justifying her possibly criminal act as heroic championing of freedom of the press and democracy.
Glatt-Berkowitz justified her actions within the context of her political agenda. By leaking a highly sensitive document on the Ariel Sharon-Cyril Kern matter, she deliberately abused her position in order to damage the political prospects of an incumbent prime minister. Unlike some of her subsequent defenders, she did not try to justify her actions as being based on the public interest. Instead, she confessed she was sufficiently distressed at the thought of having Sharon as prime minister at the time when her son is being inducted into the army, to warrant leaking the confidential information.
In other words, Glatt-Berkowitz confessed to willfully breaching section 117 of the penal code, which states that a public servant is liable to imprisonment for up to three years for leaking unauthorized information to the public. Her actions further exacerbated the public perception of the justice system as being biased and corrupt.
And then came the bizarre twist of intellectual “doublespeak.” Instead of demanding that Glatt-Berkowitz be punished with the full severity of the law, columnists deliberately reconstructed her confession, arguing that she had acted in good faith and was justified in leaking information in the public interest even if this resulted in apportioning guilt in the course of the preliminary stages of an investigation.
Even Ma’ariv editor Amnon Dankner warned that “it would be a black day for Israeli democracy if Glatt-Berkowitz… is put on trial… Informants should not live in fear and under legal terror. Leaks are the grease of the wheels of democracy.”
In what can only be described as surrealism, the media compared efforts to uncover the source of the leak to behavior in the Soviet Union and other dictatorships and unleashed an unprecedented campaign of slander and vituperation against the attorney-general.
The hysteria climaxed with calls to amend the law so that acts such as those committed by Glatt-Berkowitz would no longer be considered illegal. If such a change were adopted, it would bring the civil service and justice system into justified contempt.
No democratic government can function without the propriety of its civil service. Elyakim Rubinstein was accused of political bias and it was alleged that his determination to make an example of Glatt-Berkowitz was crafted in order to intimidate the press and divert attention from his own failures especially his alleged reluctance to pursue charges of corruption against Sharon and the Likud. Calls were made for him to resign.
IF THERE has been one man in the civil service who embodies the image of Mr. Clean and Mr. Integrity it has been Rubinstein. Throughout the whole imbroglio, Rubinstein has been up front and consistent at all levels. He made it clear that highly political sensitive reviews requiring detailed investigations would not be initiated in the short period before the elections. In fact, the Glatt-Berkowitz experience testifies to the wisdom of this approach.
From the day that Moshe Dayan identified Rubinstein as a young man with a brilliant legal mind and seconded him to the negotiating team with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat at Camp David, Rubinstein became a permanent feature of all peace negotiations other than Oslo. King Hussein of Jordan bestowed upon him a prestigious award for his indispensable contribution to the Israel-Jordanian Peace Treaty.
As cabinet secretary to the Shamir government he was trusted by both sides of the political spectrum and continued under Yitzhak Rabin to serve as a trusted civil servant. I personally recall how both Shamir and Rabin would speak in near rhapsodical terms about the devotion and dedication of Rubinstein, whom they both admired and respected.
Rubinstein, a passionate Zionist, represents the best of Israeli and Jewish life and has a profound understanding of the secular and religious legal systems. Religiously observant, he has nevertheless fervently opposed all forms of religious coercion. Even the Conservative and Reform movements paid tribute to his efforts to establish a modus vivendi in the religious arena which included them.
In civic life, he has also shown courage and consistency and has been uncompromising in his efforts to enforce the rule of law and preserve democracy. He quietly but firmly urged prime minister Barak not to authorize his disintegrating government to finalize important long-term arrangements with the Palestinians on the eve of elections.
He confronted Rabbi Ovadia Yosef over his intemperate language, causing Shas to effectively call for his excommunication. He even obtained praise from Ha’aretz PLO apologist Gideon Levy for issuing tough guidelines to the authorities for dealing with lawless settlers. And it was Rubinstein who authorized the police to investigate corruption allegations arising from the Likud primaries.
Yet now he is being accused by the leftist establishment of acting against the interests of democracy on behalf of the “Right.” To this end, his detractors are willing to resort to the most abusive double standards and promote false accusations, thereby themselves being guilty of corruption and scandal. Such character assassination of a man who symbolizes national unity and represents a role model for democracy and integrity explains why so many of the most talented Israelis are deterred from becoming involved in the political arena.
A tough response by the attorney-general is essential in order to preserve the very essence of our democracy. The public should be grateful to Rubinstein for doing his job by clamping down on the scurrilous leaks from public servants in trusted positions whose previous actions in addition to undermining confidence in the justice system also frequently destroyed the reputations of innocent people.