Published by The Freeman Center

The Maccabean Online

Political Analysis and Commentary
on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."



Bibi Is Following Sharon: Part I

By Paul Eidelberg

Text: Rivlin Ha'aretz interview revealing Sharon's plans

Courting disaster By Ari Shavit

Ha'aretz Magazine, Section 5, June 2003 

 

 

Reuven ("Ruby") Rivlin is unwilling to reveal the names of the settlements that Ariel Sharon intends to evacuate. But he is willing to say how many: 17. And he is willing to say what they have in common: They are located on the connection points between one Sharonist canton and the next. And he is willing to reveal when Sharon decided on the evacuation: at the time he assumed the post of prime minister. When he understood that Israel's future for generations would be decided during his term of office. When he understood that there was no choice but to separate. When he understood that even though he promised repeatedly that he would not remove even one settlement, there would be no choice. Sharon understood that there will be no choice because it is essential to reach an agreement that will bring about a situation in which the Palestinians do not live in our midst and we do not live in their midst.  

Are Beit El and Shiloh two of the 17 settlements that are earmarked for evacuation? Rivlin declines to reply. He is afraid that their mention attests to an expansion of the evacuation program and to Sharon's readiness to go beyond what he planned a year or two ago. However, a short clarification immediately after the conversation with him finds that Ganim and Kadim are definitely earmarked for evacuation. So are Tekoa and Nokdim. And Homesh. So are other settlements in the Nablus area, in the Bethlehem area and in the Binyamin District. 

In contrast, Sharon is adamant that he will not evacuate Netzarim, an isolated settlement in the Gaza Strip, let alone the Katif Bloc of settlements in the northern Gaza Strip. He and the Americans are holding intensive talks on this subject. Sharon is insisting that only what stands in the way of Palestinian territorial contiguity will be evacuated. What does not block that contiguity will remain intact. 

Is Sharon tormented by his personal responsibility for the establishment of the settlements and the need to deal with his mistakes? Rivlin says that whereas in the personal realm Sharon is a very sensitive person whose eyes often grow moist, in the national realm he is entirely without emotions. He has no inhibitions, Rivlin says. He is a Mapainik without inhibitions, referring to the Mapai party, the precursor of Labor, which was known for its rampant pragmatism. When he forms an opinion, nothing will stop him. No sentiment and no human commitment will hold him back. 

Rivlin himself is agitated and of two minds about the Sharonist shift. In the room of the Jerusalem hotel in which we meet, his voice cracks and his eyes shine as he talks about the shattered dream of the "national camp" and the loss of the Land of Israel. Even though he understands the logic that is guiding his political patron, the prime minister, he is not willing to accept it. He, Reuven Rivlin, will never lift a finger to hand over the Land of Israel. Even if he remains utterly alone, he will prefer to show allegiance to the lost ideal of Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin and to the integrity of the homeland. 

It is only after some time, after he asserts that he himself would be willing to eat the wild hubeiza fruit, as during the siege of Jerusalem in 1948, in order to save the Land of Israel, that he begins to speak with the same fervor about the subject we are here to discuss: the constitutional revolution, Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and the threat posed to democracy precisely by the Israeli establishments. The speaker of the Knesset does not mince his words. He talks bluntly and directly about the things that are disturbing him and making him lose sleep. 

 

Sharon and Me 

Ruby Rivlin, you are very close to Sharon. You hold intimate conversations with him. Where is he taking us? 

"Arik is trying to achieve a solution that will put him into the history books as a person who fomented a historical turning point - like Ben-Gurion in 1947, Begin in 1979 and Yitzhak Rabin in 1993. But Arik also understands in the clearest way possible that he cannot achieve a permanent settlement that will satisfy the Arabs. He understands that no one on the Arab side will agree to forgo the areas that he regards as essential for the defense of the State of Israel. 

"I refer mainly to areas in the Jordan Rift Valley and to the strip running from Arad to Jerusalem, in the Dead Sea region. Arik is therefore aiming for a temporary settlement. But the temporary settlement he has in mind is far-reaching. He truly intends the establishment of a Palestinian state with territorial contiguity and a true separation between us and 3.5 million Palestinians." 

Are you saying that the moderate Sharon we have seen since the eve of Pesach is the real Sharon?

"Undoubtedly. Undoubtedly. Whether I like it or not, the moderate Arik is authentic. Look, sometimes he zigzags. Sometimes he says things ambivalently, which can be interpreted either way. But to my chagrin, he has passed the point of no return. I can tell you and your readers with certainty that Arik Sharon is resolute in his position that a settlement has to be reached immediately. When he talks about the end of the occupation and about painful concessions, he is not pulling a fast one and he is not lying - unfortunately." 

When did you grasp that this is it, that he crossed the Rubicon? 

"In October. One night he called me into his office and showed me the road map and asked me for my comments. At that moment I understood that we were approaching the moment of truth. That he's really going for it."

So deep down he really has remained a Mapainik? 

"Without a doubt. In the end, Arik believes in security above all and is a salient pragmatist, a disciple of Ben-Gurion. He reminds me of [former Jerusalem mayor] Teddy Kollek. Both he and Kollek learned from Ben-Gurion that statecraft is the art of the possible. 

"Look, Arik Sharon has a doctrine of life that is far more coherent than what journalists give him credit for. It's true that in the past he moved from one place to another. I myself was critical of him for changing certain positions for political purposes. But people here didn't understand that from the day he assumed the post of prime minister, his security and political outlook was very crystallized. 

"He didn't know, and he still doesn't know, how to reach a permanent settlement, but he is determined to recognize a Palestinian state and reach a settlement. Think about the fact that when he says the occupation is hard for the people of Israel he is really saying that the occupation corrupts. That we have the right to the land but that we can't realize it. In this, he is actually accepting the ideology of the left." 

So the person who heads the Likud today is really a Ben-Gurionist? 

"Arik is definitely a Ben-Gurionist. In our conversations, he laughs and calls me the ideologue, and I laugh and call him his [Ben-Gurion's] disciple. But there's nothing funny about it. It's completely true. And for me it's rough, because since October I have been wracked by an inner conflict between my uncompromising belief that all of Zion is ours, and my close friendship with the prime minister. 

"That's why, when he offered me a cabinet post in his government, I preferred to become Speaker of the Knesset. I told him openly: Arik, we are now on an irreversible collision course. You are a disciple of Ben-Gurion and I am a disciple of Jabotinsky. You are a pragmatist and I cannot free myself of my belief. I will not convert my religion, I told him. I have no intention of converting."

 

Historic Earthquake 

Let's get back to him. If he is truly serious, as you describe it, there will be a settlement within half a year to a year. That's not just talk. There will really be a historic earthquake here. 

"For many months I've been telling my journalist friends that an earthquake is happening. Arik Sharon is serious about the words he is speaking. And the moment you embark on that road, there is no knowing where it will lead, because once a sacrosanct principle is shattered, anything goes. The process is very powerful." 

Give me a scenario. What's going to happen?

"There is one thing on which Arik will make no concessions: terrorism. On this subject Arik has no doubts and everyone can trust him, including Likudniks. If there is terrorism, he will not hand over territory. But if we actually reach a situation in which a solution is found for terrorism, and there are signs that the Palestinians are trying to meet us halfway, he will establish a Palestinian state in the territories held by the Palestinians with territorial contiguity, which could be very significant from the point of view of the Israeli government's attitude toward the sacred principle of non-evacuation of settlements." 

Are you saying that Sharon will evacuate settlements already in the stage of the establishment of the temporary Palestinian state?

"It is definitely possible that an impossible friction between certain settlements and the need for a situation in which the Arabs will not pass through our territory and in which we will not rub shoulders with them - that this will thrust him into a situation in which he will make an Arik-style decision that it's possible that settlements will have to be evacuated." 

I ask again, Ruby Rivlin: Has Arik Sharon accepted the fact that he will evacuate settlements?

"What he has accepted is that for us to live within borders that make movement possible for them other than through our territory, it will be necessary to reach a decision to evacuate a number of settlements." 

How many settlements are we talking about?

"When Arik assumed the office of prime minister, and even earlier, in discussions he held with [former prime minister] Ehud Barak, about 17 settlements [in this category] were identified." 

When Sharon mentions painful concessions, is he referring to these 17 settlements?

"He sees them above all. Arik has made clear and explained a number of times that their evacuation is necessary in order to stabilize some sort of way in which we will be able to reach some sort of settlement. Today we have cantons. Those cantons will be unified and connected. Connecting the cantons will necessitate this blow to the settlement project. It obliges the evacuation of about 17 settlements."

Are you telling me that Sharon has reconciled himself to the fact that he will evacuate 17 settlements already at the state of the interim agreement? 

"Yes. When he talks about painful concessions, he is talking about a concrete map that some of the Yesha people [referring to the Yesha council of Jewish settlements in the territories] know about and that he has already talked to them about." 

And does Sharon believe that an evacuation on that scale will bring about calm and conciliation?

"Sharon thinks that it's necessary to build some sort of relations of trust. Even though, knowing Sharon as I do, I don't see him placing any trust in the Arab side." 

Not even in Abu Mazen?

"Not even in Abu Mazen." 

So there is a basic problem in placing trust in the Arabs?

"He has no trust in them. Arik doesn't like them much because he doesn't believe them. But Arik knows that negotiations are not conducted only with people you believe. Negotiations are conducted in order to solve problems. Look, Arik does not view the Arabs from a position of superiority. 

He sees the Arabs as people to whom we owe nothing. We owe nothing to anyone who wants to attack and kill us. That side of the issue is of no interest to him. So when he talks about 3.5 million Palestinians, it is not because of their suffering, but because he has reached the conclusion that to go on ruling them is impractical." 

Will he evacuate Netzarim [an isolated settlement in the Gaza Strip]?

"Arik is ready to pay the price in places where it is necessary to guarantee the Palestinians continuity. There is no such problem at Netzarim. At Netzarim, the problem is that of Netzarim, not of the Palestinians. Therefore he is more accepting of the need to evacuate [settlements] in the Binyamin region than in the Gaza Strip. But the American pressure in the direction of the Gaza District is very heavy."

And what about the permanent settlement? Will he not forgo the Jordan Rift Valley and the Gaza Strip and the strip between Arad and Jerusalem even as part of a final peace agreement? 

"In my opinion, he will be more adamant on that than on the question of Jerusalem. That is his casus belli. As far as I know Arik, he will not compromise on that issue. To him, these are territories without which it is impossible to defend Israel. But a situation is liable to develop in which the decision about them will not be his to make."

 

New Sounds About Jerusalem 

Is it possible that Sharon will also compromise on Jerusalem?

"I don't want to believe that. Arik is suffused with a mystical belief about Jerusalem. But when you embark on the road, you will be asked - Will you now ruin everything just because of Jerusalem? I have a musical ear. In one of his recent speeches I heard new sounds about Jerusalem. They worried me." 

So what you fear is that the process will pull him in further than what he himself supposes?

"When you embark on a trans-Atlantic flight and the pilot informs you that you have crossed the ocean, you can no longer go back to Europe, you have to land in North America. That is Arik's situation today, without a doubt. Politically, too. He took the risk knowingly and willingly, and he knows he will have no choice but to land on the other side." 

What is his virtue and what is his weakness?

"His virtue is that he decides alone and his weakness is that he decides alone."

Is he the only one who makes the big decisions?

"He's very centralistic, Arik, very centralistic."

How much influence do his sons have? 

"The sons have influence on him, but not at this level. Remember also that he has two sons. One pulls this way, the other one that way. So they balance each other. They offset each other." 

So he is completely alone - he makes the major decisions in consultation only with himself?

"In trivial things he can be influenced. If there's an appointment to be made, it's obligatory to be the last one to see him, because otherwise you're lost. Arik is very sensitive on those kinds of issues. He tends to do well by the person who is next to him at that moment. But on major issues, forget it. He trusts only himself." 

Is it your assessment that the very course Sharon has embarked on will in the end lead to the 1967 borders or something approximating them?

"That's more than an apprehension. That's a clear scenario. Unequivocally. Because once we live in a global village and the American sheriff is the sheriff of the whole world, you can be the world's greatest ideologue, but you have to take account of the political situation. And from the moment a crack appears in your belief, the crack gets wider and wider. You get into a state of mind that is not amenable to change.

"What Arik is now doing is causing the national movement to largely shed its basic tenets. Even principles that Arik promised me he would uphold just a few months ago have been eroded. We are entering a process here that does not make conditional the end of one stage before the transition to the next stage. We have already recognized the Palestinians' right to a state and we are talking about the Saudi plan and the right of return. It's all up for grabs. So it's clear that even if there are things that Arik really will not forgo, his successor will continue what he began."

Is this revolution hard for you? 

"It's not only hard for me; it's impossible from my point of view. You have to understand that the love between Arik and me has a personal background.

Correction: friendship, not love. There is no love between politicians. Only among Jerusalemites is there love. That's why they're such bad politicians. A sentimental politician like myself is not a politician. A politician who tells people what he thinks is not a politician. 

"But between Arik and me there is trust. He believes me, I believe him. We don't lie to one another. When Arik talks to me, he looks me in the eye. When I talk to him, I look him in the eye. We have a very close relationship. But when all is said and done, he is one of the fathers of pragmatic Zionism. He is taking the state to where Ben-Gurion would have taken it. Whereas I, I was a Herutnik from age zero [referring to the Herut party, the precursor of the Likud]. 

"I know that my belief in the Land of Israel sounds a bit mystical today. A bit not implementable. But I believe. And I am too old to change. Therefore, I am completely torn now between loyalty to the man and loyalty to the path. I love Arik with all my soul but I don't love his path. For me to follow him now would be nothing less than a religious conversion. A genuine religious conversion. I can't do it."

 

Aharon Barak and Me 

Ruby Rivlin, your attack on the Supreme Court was unprecedented. What brought it on? Why do you perceive the court as being so dangerous? 

"In 1992 I was a member of the [Knesset's] Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which formulated and passed the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom. So I know what the idea behind that law was. The idea was to consolidate the rights of people insofar as they are people and the rights of the minority insofar as it is a minority. Under no circumstances was the idea to transfer legislative authority from the Knesset to another body. No one even talked about changing the balance of power between the Knesset and the court. 

"So a few months later, when Dan Meridor declared that a constitutional revolution had taken place, I was stunned. Dan Meridor is one of the followers of Justice Barak [Aharon Barak, the president of the Supreme Court]. Follower is a nice word. I don't want to use a different word, heaven forbid. But unlike him, I thought - like several former Supreme Court presidents - that there had been no constitutional revolution here. No such thing. 

"Yet as time passed and the court moved ahead with great deliberation and by creeping annexation took over more and more powers, I realized that not only had there been a constitutional revolution, there had been a coup d'etat. I do not accept this revolution, In my view, the Knesset never approved it and therefore it is taking place contrary to the democratic spirit and without authorization."

'Coup d'etat' is a serious term to use in this context; it means a putsch. 

"Correct. And that is the term I used at the President's Residence last month. Supreme Court President Barak was very hurt by the expression, but in my opinion, when a group of people sit in a room and say that from this moment we are the power, that is a putsch. You tell me: Isn't it a putsch? It's a putsch. After all, they did not receive authorization from anyone. They did not consult with anyone. They created a situation of going ahead and seizing power."

Do you see this as the imposition of a particular worldview on the public by means of an improper procedure? Do you see a move to establish a kind of enlightened absolutism?

"Yes. It's as clear as day. Aharon Barak says that we have to distinguish between the Knesset as framing and the Knesset as legislating. He says that if you don't frame a constitution, I will set forth a constitution instead of you. But who gave him the right? Who gave him the right?" 

What you are actually saying, then, is that the whole constitutional move that Justice Barak led in the past decade is illegitimate? 

"Of course. On the basis of the false claim of a constitutional revolution, a new reality was created here. A new government was forged that is above everyone: both above the Knesset and above the government and above the law, too. Take note that the court has effectively placed itself above the law. It has lost the fear of the law." 

Can you explain?

"I will give you an example. MK Azmi Bishara wants to be elected to the Knesset even though he says that the State of Israel should not be the state of the Jewish people. Personally, I think that's all right, that he should be able to run for the Knesset on the basis of that platform. 

"But the Knesset thought differently. The Knesset stipulated that anyone who preaches that the State of Israel is not the Jewish state shall not be elected to the Knesset. The Knesset stipulated that in a law. Along comes the court and says that despite the Knesset's law, I am deciding differently. In other words, the court stands above the law. It is no longer interpreting the law, it is setting the law or replacing it, according to its norms, its worldview.

"What that means is that the court is telling the legislature that henceforth I am going to legislate instead of you. I find that intolerable. It is the loss of the court's fear before the law. It is the transformation of the court into an authority over which there is no review."

 

Threat to Democracy 

Do you really believe that the court is operating contrary to the democratic spirit and contrary to the values of democracy?

"Without a doubt. The court is disrupting the whole order of government. I will give you another example. On the issue of the Landau report [a 1987 report about the Shin Bet security service's interrogation methods, drawn up by a commission headed by Justice Moshe Landau, a former president of the Supreme Court], Aharon Barak comes and says, Look, even if all 120 members of the Knesset tell me that in the case of a human `ticking bomb,' moderate physical pressure can be used [as the Landau Commission recommended in certain interrogations], I will strike it down. 

In other words, Barak is placing himself above 120 legislators. He says, If I think it's wrong, I don't care what the Knesset thinks. Now, I have high regard for Aharon Barak. I trust him. He is learned in the law, he is brilliant, he is a leader. He is also a gifted politician. But because of the reverence in which this person is held, a situation has been created that accords the president of the Supreme Court the authority to do anything he pleases above the head of the legislature. That is a very dangerous situation. It is not only a threat to Zionist and national values, it is a threat to democracy." 

Still, why now? What decisions by the court made you react so harshly?

"There was of course the ruling by a Magistrate's Court that brought the process ad absurdum. When a junior judge allows himself to invalidate a law of the Knesset, you realize that we have reached a state of total madness. But in my opinion what was even more serious was the decision by the High Court of Justice on the question of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem [when armed Palestinians took refuge there during Operation Defensive Shield in May, 2002]. 

"The very fact that the court did not kick out the petitioners and agreed to get into a discussion about the conduct of war policy in wartime proved to me that the court is now placing itself above the government, too. Because the moment the court starts weighing the considerations of the government in matters about which only the government can decide and for which it alone bears responsibility, it's all over. The court has actually turned itself into a meta-government. 

"Therefore, I reached the conclusion that someone had to tell His Honor Justice Barak that there is a limit. Someone had to tell him, It's not your affair. It's the affair of the government."

Do you seriously intend to curb the power of the court by means of legislation?

"Definitely. It has to be done. We are talking about a burning problem. We are talking about a situation in which they are already talking about a requiem for the law, about how the judge overcame the law. And we are talking about a situation in which the judicial system is endangering the democratic system in Israel because its people are sure that they are better than others. 

"What's going on here, after all? Effectively there is no longer any law here because the law changes every minute according to the interpretation of the court based on some sort of meta-norm that has never been defined, so no one knows what it is. The result is a situation in which a very small group of people has arrogated to itself the authority to decide values and rules and even policy for a whole country and for a whole public that never gave them any such authorization." 

Are you hostile to Justice Barak personally?

"The very opposite. I think Aharon Barak is a wonderful and amazing person. He is 20,000 leagues over me. And the truth is that it is very difficult to oppose him and argue with him. I am also very fond of him. He is a Zionist in every fiber of his being, a warm Jew, with extraordinary charm. When he and I hear the national anthem being played, we both cry. When he and I visit the grave of a person who gave his life in the struggle for the homeland 36 years ago, we both cry. 

"But what I say is not to think about the fact that the meta-government is now in the hands of Aharon Barak. I, too, am ready for Aharon Barak to be a king in Israel. I trust him, he suits me. And we all kneel and bow and fall on our face when we hear Aharon Barak. But what will happen when the king is no longer Barak? What will happen, heaven forbid, if the king is a nobody like me? 

"You know, it's impossible to build the whole system on the qualities of one man who is truly a giant of his generation. Perhaps a giant of all his generations. We have to think about what will happen in another three years. Another five years. We have to think what will happen if all the powers that are now in the hands of Aharon Barak will be in the hands of someone like Ruby Rivlin. What will happen then, I ask. What will happen if Ruby Rivlin exercises his authority to decide that he is above the prime minister, above the legislature, above the law?" 

 

Not Like America 

If you have such high regard for Aharon Barak, how do you explain his insistence on a constitutional move that you find so flawed?

"Aharon Barak was an attorney general that you couldn't approach. He gave legal advice and managed the prosecution as only he can. That experience gave him the feeling that he could do everything. And the truth is that today in the State of Israel, Aharon Barak can do everything. But that state of affairs leads him to think that he is the be-all and end-all. Things that I, for example, would blush to do, he does without batting an eyelash. 

"And a group of people has begun to gather around him who think they are suitable, they are wonderful, they are terrific. So with them there is no problem of nepotism. Because they are enlightened and they know one another and they know what's going on, so it's no problem at all to choose someone who is someone's relative for a position. Because they, in contrast to politicians, are allowed to know people and to esteem them. 

"And they can also come and say that even though elections were held in which a particular worldview was victorious, their worldview is more correct. So it doesn't matter if the people decided to vote for the right, because they can come and tell the people that, with all due respect, the right wing is in the government and in the Knesset, but in the place where decisions are truly made the people will not decide. We will decide. Because we think better than you. We are better than you in every way." 

Does it go that far?

"It goes that far. And I will let you in on a secret. They really are good. If you promise not to tell anyone, I will tell you that I know the justices of the Supreme Court and I know the members of the Knesset, and the people on the Supreme Court are better than the people in the Knesset. Believe me, in the Supreme Court they are tip-top, every one of them.

"But the problem is that, as my friend [the artist Yair] Garbuz says, democracy is the right of the majority to be wrong. The price we have to pay for democracy is to accept that the majority is sovereign even if the majority is wrong. That's the truth. And it is impossible to create some sort of regime of kohanim [biblical priests] here. It is impossible to create a kingdom here. 

"When Aharon Barak says all the time, Look at America, look what powers the court has in America, I tell him, Fine, let's choose the judges the way they do in America. Arik Sharon will appoint the judges now and Haim Ramon or Avrum Burg or Fuad [Benjamin Ben-Eliezer] will appoint the judges in a few years, and so we will create a mosaic of opinions like they have in America. In that way not all the judges will be from the same village. They won't all come from the same Jerusalem neighborhood I grew up in, Rehavia. But when I say that, Aharon Barak suddenly goes pale and says, No, the American system is no good. There is terrible politicization in the American system."

Are you incensed by the process in which judges in Israel are appointed?

"Our system of choosing judges is fine, as long as the court knows its limits, as long as it doesn't become a meta-government. The problem, though, is that everything depends on the minister of justice. If the minister of justice is the tool of the president of the Supreme Court, then what we get is a closed system without pluralism. That is what makes it possible for the system to consider itself supreme over other democratic systems." 

Two years ago, you were a candidate to become minister of justice, but just when you were about to be appointed a police investigation against you began. It's said that you serve the interests of [contractor and businessman] David Appel. 

"Generally, the justice minister in Israel is chosen in such a way that it's known he will be sympathetic to the president of the Supreme Court. If apprehension exists that he is liable not to be sympathetic, he is arrested by the police or interrogated. That's what happened in my case, too.

"When Arik received the confidence of the nation in 2001 and intended to appoint me minister of justice, I was suddenly questioned by the police for 11 hours about all kinds of groundless things, and the fact of the interrogation was immediately leaked to all kinds of journalists and scribblers who shed my blood. 

"I have no complaints against the court, heaven forbid. The court is above all that. But if there is one case and a second case and a third case in which people who are not convenient for the system find themselves summoned by the police with strange timing, then maybe there is a prima facie phenomenon here. Maybe there is a dangerous phenomenon here. 

"On the face of it, the suspicion arises that perhaps one system is preventing another system from realizing the mandate it was given by the public. Because I, for example, was elected to the Knesset and if, for example, the prime minister wants to choose me, and another system comes along and says you cannot be chosen because there is some sort of suspicion against you that was raised at a time that is not accidental, and then you are not really investigated afterward, then we have here a threat to democracy precisely on the part of those who speak in the name of democracy.

There is cause for concern that instead of the rule of law, we have in Israel a gang of the rule of law."

I don't understand. Can you explain?

"I repeat: I am not talking about the court, heaven forbid. But the concern arises that maybe what we have here is a gang of the rule of law. As soon as the need arises, as soon as someone threatens the group, they act against him wickedly and in complete symbiosis with the investigative branch, the prosecuting branch and the seventh branch. The result is that the person in question is stigmatized and then there are selective leaks to the papers from the interrogation and then you get a journalist who calls me Dudi Rivlin [David Appel is nicknamed "Dudi"] or Ruby Appel [in Hebrew, Appel can also be read afel, meaning `dark' with an underworld connotation] or things like that. 

"And I tell you that there is no more moral person in the world than me. I am absolutely unblemished and pure-hearted. But because I am a nonconformist and because I am a politician, they allow themselves to persecute me. They say, Who is this politician, what if we shed his blood, one way or the other he is disqualified. If he hasn't committed a crime, he will. If we haven't pinned something on him, we will. In other words, irresponsible accusations are hurled. The symbiosis between the police and the press turns certain politicians, who are considered undesirable, into doormats. I consider that Sodom and Gomorrah, nothing less than Sodom and Gomorrah." 

Aren't you close to David Appel? Don't you serve his interests? Isn't your opposition to the systems that constitute the rule of law bound up with your relationship with him?

"I am simply ashamed to answer that question. I don't deny my friendship with Dudi. We have known each other since the day he was born. True, our relations have cooled now, but for years Dudi's children were like my children, and my children were like his. But none of that is in any way related to anything illegal. 

"I am innocent and pure-hearted, I tell you. I am also modest in my way of life. There is no one more honest or more moral than I am. So the whole allegation about this subject is not only ridiculous, it is wicked. And it only proves how much damage these contemptible people can cause. Do you know that to this day they haven't called me in to inform me that the investigation has ended? And the scribblers who work with them have never apologized.

"But I cannot forget that day two years ago when I was about to be appointed minister of justice, when they suddenly called me in and questioned me for 11 hours about nothing. I didn't know what to do with myself. What my children would say to me, what my wife was going through. I was about to become minister of justice and then there were reports, based on nonsense, that I was supposedly suspected of bribe- taking. Therefore I tell you that they are a gang, those people. A gang like any other gang. Except that the name of this gang is the gang of the rule of law."