Avigdor Lieberman arrived at the last cabinet meeting on Sunday ready to fight. On the agenda; a law being put forth by Ayalet Shaked which deals with wiretapping. While it’s true that only a regional court judge or his subordinate can authorize a wiretap, due to the high amount of requests, the Justice Minister has been asked to pass a law whereby lower ranking court officials can institute wiretaps on phones.
There are approximately 4, 000 requests for wiretaps submitted every year, 98 percent of which are approved almost immediately. The judges who are notorious for approving these requests are accused of being “rubber stamps” for the police. They have requested this change in the law so that they can more thoroughly review each new wiretap request.
Minister Shaked, with the backing of Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, has requested to bring the proposal to the government to be approved quickly in order to skip over the discussions in the Ministerial Council.
However, both ministers forgot about the primary detractor to this change in the law- Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has been the subject to seven investigations and wiretapped for years, and demanded that the proposed changes to the law be shelved.
“Increasing the amount of judges who can approve wiretaps won’t streamline the process – it will only increase the number of wiretap requests coming from the police, ” Lieberman said. “People are afraid of talking on the phone – these wiretaps destroy the public atmosphere.”
He then went on to remind Minster Erdan of his days as a junior Member of the Knesset when he appealed the dismissal of Police Commissioner Moshe Mizrahi over a decade ago after it was discovered that the commissioner had used illegal wiretaps.
“As if that weren’t enough, ” Lieberman added, “only 70 wiretaps a year are approved in great big Britain. Are they not fighting crime there?”
Minister Gila Gamliel, who’s name was included in the Yitzhaki Document which details the alleged illegal activities of politicians, supported Lieberman’s stance. As did Minister Yoav Galant.
Erdan however kept to his position. “With all due respect, the characters in the story have changed since 14 years ago, ” he claimed. “The procedures to approve wiretaps have become more exact. I don’t know of any instances of illegal wiretapping.”
Regarding comparing Israel to the rest of the world, Erdan said that the moment that a wiretap prevents a single murder, the number of wiretaps isn’t relevant. “Its impossible to know if this increases or decreases the motivation of crimes, but we have to try and prevent them by any means possible.”
The Prime Minister joined the conversation at a certain point, and said that in the US, there are stringent rules governing wiretaps. He just forgot about the Patriot Act which came out in 2001.