Comptroller asks to postpone hearing on IDF petition

Mazuz refuses to represent Lindenstrauss before High Court; upcoming report on Lebanon war accuses Home Front Command of 'breaking law.'

By DAN IZENBERG, JPOST.COM STAFF
March 6, 2007 08:29
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State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss requested on Tuesday morning to postpone the hearing on an IDF petition against the state comptroller's report on the Home Front Command's management, after Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz announced he would not represent Lindenstrauss before the High Court of Justice. The High Court convened shortly afterwards to consider the implications of the request and how to proceed. Negative recommendations regarding specific government and military officials were not expected to appear in the State Comptroller's Office interim report on the management of the home front during last summer's Lebanon conflict, which was slated to be released on Tuesday. The Jerusalem Post has learned, however, that the IDF Home Front Command is accused in the report of "breaking the law" during the war by setting up a National Disaster Administration for emergency services before it was approved under an obligatory legislative process.

  • Analysis: Shooting himself in the foot On Monday, OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Gershon Yitzhak petitioned the High Court of Justice to postpone the publication of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's report. Before Lindenstrauss requested to postpone the hearing, the court had been due to hear the petition at 9 a.m. on Tuesday - two hours before the scheduled Knesset State Control Committee meeting. Yitzhak's primary claim is that the IDF did not receive a copy of the report enough time before its scheduled release to compose a coherent and comprehensive response. The report was distributed to the IDF - as well as 91 other agencies investigated by the comptroller - on Monday morning, less than 24 hours before its planned publication. "The petitioners will argue that [Knesset State Control Committee chairman Zevulun Orlev's] demand that the state comptroller present the main points of his findings in the interim report and the state comptroller's intention to do so lacks proper authority, is unreasonable and violates the rules of natural justice," wrote Gershon's attorney, Eldad Yaniv. According to details of the report obtained by the Post, fears that Yitzhak and other IDF officers would be personally blamed for the failures in the management of the home front during the monthlong fight were unfounded. Lindenstrauss will not include any criticism of individuals or institutions in his report to the Knesset State Control Committee, Orlev said Monday. "The report is not as bad as we had initially thought it would be," said one official who had reviewed parts of the 600-page report. "What we are upset about is that the report was only given to us on Monday and not weeks in advance - the way things are usually done with comptroller reports - which would have allowed us to properly study it and respond to its findings." In the document, the comptroller breaks down the many issues involved in home front defense, including the maintenance of bomb shelters by local authorities, the division of responsibilities among emergency services and the response provided by rescue services during Katyusha rocket attacks. One of the comptroller's strongest criticisms refers to a plan initiated by Yitzhak in 2005 that calls for the establishment of a National Disaster Administration that will unite all of the civilian rescue emergency services - the Israel Police, Magen David Adom, and the Fire and Rescue Services - under the IDF at a time of war. The establishment of the administration required changes in legislation, particularly regarding the authority each emergency service retained. In his report, the comptroller says the administration was set up ad hoc during the war, without the necessary legislative approval. IDF officers said the comptroller's allegation was "baseless" and that the administration was not set up or instituted during the war. "What this does prove," one officer said, "is that there is a dire need for the establishment of a single administration that will integrate and coordinate among all of the various rescue agencies." Officials pointed to a number of changes Home Front Command has instituted since the war, including the establishment of teams to coordinate with local authorities. The IDF has also made changes to the way it deploys and activates its early-warning siren system across the country. As late as Sunday evening, Orlev indicated that Lindenstrauss's report would name names. When he heard that Gershon had threatened to petition the High Court, he blasted him for being "selfish," charging that "those who hold senior positions have decided to prefer their personal interests and the protection of their jobs and status over the need to learn the necessary lessons from the failures and mistakes in the handling of the home front during the war." Gershon reportedly was trying to block the meeting to save his own skin, at the cost of the greater national good, Orlev said. On Monday, Orlev's tone was distinctly different. "The state comptroller's report will deal with his activities that will also include, of course, general recommendations that we can start to implement right away to provide a more satisfactory state of preparedness for the home front," he said. In the afternoon, Orlev met with Lindenstrauss to make sure that both understood the rules of the game for Tuesday's meeting. Orlev had also been under fire from Nurit Elstein, the Knesset's legal adviser, who on Monday sided with the petitioners. "The draft of the petition indicates that those under investigation have not yet received the draft of the interim report and have therefore not had the chance to respond to it," wrote Elstein. "Publishing the report without giving those under investigation the full benefit of due process is a violation of that basic right and could cause them irreversible harm." Orlev rejected Elstein's opinion and said he intended to hold the meeting anyway, conditional on the High Court's decision. But by announcing that Lindenstrauss would not criticize individuals or institutions by name, Orlev essentially moved into line with Elstein's opinion. According to a Channel 10 report, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz had intended to refuse to represent Lindenstrauss before the High Court until he heard Orlev's clarification. In a related development, Knesset Law Committee chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson wrote to Mazuz demanding that he investigate how details of the 600-page interim report had been leaked to the media and published before copies were distributed to those under investigation, when no one outside the State Comptroller's Office knew their contents. "In his letter yesterday," wrote Ben-Sasson, "the prime minister accused the State Comptroller's Office of repeated leaks of the drafts of reports prepared by the office. For his part, the state comptroller says that the drafts of the reports are leaked to the media by those under investigation after they receive copies of it. Such a serious charge as has been leveled by the prime minister against the State Comptroller's Office cannot be left hanging in the air. This matter must be looked into. The unequivocal statements by two senior media commentators, who said they knew what was written in the draft, cannot be left without a response. We must investigate this."

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