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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Whatever the outcome of Tuesday's urgent High Court session, there can be little question that State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's actions over the last week have severely compromised his position and credibility, and have limited the powers of his office to battle government corruption and misconduct.
The State Comptroller's Office used to rival the Mossad in its levels of secrecy. Journalists tried in vain to glean details on ongoing investigations. The comptroller's faceless investigators went quietly about their work, which often culminated in earth-shattering reports.
When he entered his position two and a half years ago, Lindenstrauss decided this wasn't good enough; he identified corruption in high places as his main enemy and enlisted the media as his main allies. He began drawing real fire a year ago when his investigators, lead by special adviser Ya'akov Borovsky, started collecting information on a string of allegations concerning Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. For the first time, the comptroller's professional work began to look personal.
Whether one sees Lindenstrauss as a brave knight storming the corrupt bastions of power, and believes his protestations that his investigations are totally impartial, or accepts the accusations coming out of the Prime Minister's Office that the comptroller is engaged in a personal crusade against Olmert, it is difficult to see how anyone can accept the coming reports at face value. Even Lindenstrauss's most ardent supporters will find it hard to defend his latest move.
His insistence on presenting the preliminary report on the government's response to the plight of the civilians in the North during last summer's Lebanon war before receiving the responses of the agencies under examination has broken all the rules concerning the comptroller's conduct. In all previous investigations, those who were about to be blamed were given the opportunity to present their side of the events before the final report was published.
The official reason for the rush this time is that the report contains vital recommendations that should be acted upon as soon as possible, before another war breaks out. This doesn't wash, since the standard procedure of passing the preliminary findings on to the responsible departments would have accomplished that without the media circus.
Lindenstrauss has opened himself wide open for criticism that his desire to beat the Winograd Commission by coming out with the first damning report on the war's errors has got the better of him. This time, he's not only taking on his perennial adversary, the prime minister. For the first time, the State Comptroller's Office, which is supposed to remain above the fray, has been embroiled in a public interdepartmental feud.
That OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Gershon has decided to petition the High Court of Justice against the comptroller is almost unimaginable. But the fact that a senior serving general feels justified in taking such an unorthodox course to defend himself and his officers from the uncontested findings illustrates what kind of a corner Lindenstrauss has painted himself into.
Not only has Lindenstrauss set himself on a collision course with the IDF top brass, he has allowed himself to be dragged into the political fray. The way he has cooperated over the last week with the Knesset State Control Committee's chairman, Zvulun Orlev, to embarrass the government would have been unthinkable for Lindenstrauss's predecessors, who steadfastly kept themselves out of political involvement.
Orlev is a wily and experienced parliamentarian who can easily run circles around the politically na ve comptroller. He has done him no favors this week by encouraging him to present his preliminary report to the panel ahead of the normal schedule.