Press Release

A Democracy in Flux

Shai Nitzan, State prosecutor defends practice of state's witnesses, says 'only the evidence can decide'

Shai Nitzan, State prosecutor spoke at a joint conference held by the Israel Democracy Institute and Makor Rishon. Alluding to the ongoing investigations surrounding the Prime Minister, he said: “Whether or not the public is convinced that a person is innocent of any crime or accusation has importance in the public sphere. But the decision whether or not to indict someone is not decided by the opinion of the majority or by public referendum." As to whether or not Israel was "corrupt", he said: "As long as public institutions are strong and independent and can fight corruption, Israel is not a corrupt state. On the day that these systems cease to be strong and independent, it will be possible to declare defeat in the anti-corruption battle. The ongoing battle against corruption is a legal, Jewish, moral obligation as well as a public duty. To combat corruption, the public must stand by the law enforcement system. Attacks, slurs and derogatory speeches against the authorities who investigate and prosecute is not the way to fight government corruption.”

In response to criticism of the prosecution's decision to cut a deal with several state witnesses implicated in the PM investigations, Nitzan said: "We will never recruit a state’s witness and tell him to lie in order to incriminate another person; we scrutinize and examine the reliability of the information before signing an agreement. Signing state’s witness agreements is a major tool in the toolkit given to law enforcement to deal with organized crime and public corruption. This tool wasn’t invented in Israel, and is accepted in other democracies. It’s been recognized as completely legitimate in Supreme Court rulings. State witnesses are not saints, but the question is not whether or not they are entitled to benefits, but rather how helpful their testimony is in fighting corruption. The advantages are not necessarily apparent to the public."


President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin said: "We are strong enough to build resilient democratic institutions - institutions such as civil rights, courts, police and the army - all led by excellent people. At the same time, we are strong enough to criticize these institutions; so long as the criticism does not try to delegitimize. We are strong enough to criticize our leadership, so long as it does not turn to incitement and delegitimization. If we continue to hold such conferences, we will be even stronger.”

We must not sacrifice democracy’s fundamental principles for the sake of short-term political interests Yohanan Plesner

Justice Minister, MK Ayelet Shaked said her biggest achievement in the Ministry of Justice was the appointment of six Supreme Court justices and additional appointments to lower courts that would affect the nature of the court. This is in addition to other economic and social processes being carried out within the framework of the Ministry and the judiciary system.
As to the coalition crisis around the draft Bill Shaked stated” I believe it is resolvable. I’ve spoken to all the heads of the coalition factions and everyone wants to solve it, including Likud ministers. If we have early elections, we will not get a better government, and we will just waste billions of Shekels and jeopardize all the reforms the government has been working on".

Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, said: "Democracy does not belong to one part of the nation. We are faced with complex challenges such as the fight against corruption, the tyranny of the majority and the danger of losing public trust in the political leadership and political institutions. In light of recent developments and in particular since we might soon face elections - we must remember that we must not sacrifice democracy’s guardians or our fundamental constitutional principles for the sake of narrow short-term political interests."

Avi Gabbay, Leader of the Israeli Labor Party, said he would not cooperate with attempts to postpone the elections. From his point of view, for the good of the Israeli people, elections should be held as soon as possible. Gabbay added that the coalition parties have betrayed their own values. Even after the police recommended indicting the Prime Minister, they are trying to gain another year in power, rather than having early elections. Gabbay also stated that if he wins the elections, he will draft a Constitution, based on the Declaration of Independence, which will form the basis of his government's guidelines. "