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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Knesset State Control Committee on Tuesday discussed the Finance Ministry's decision not to extend the four-year contract of Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha when it expires in October.
Following a meeting with Zelekha on Monday, during which the accountant-general asked him for protection, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss told reporters he would reveal more details about the talk to the committee.
Following their meeting, Lindenstrauss issued a brief statement saying he had met with Zelekha at the latter's request. "During the meeting, it was agreed that the accountant-general and his attorney would hand over to the state comptroller at an early date all of the documents related to the matter so that the state comptroller could study them," it said.
He also pointed out that he had received the request of two MKs, Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) and Arye Eldad (Nation Union-National Religious Party) to issue an order protecting Zelekha from Finance Minister Roni Bar-On's intention of letting him go when the contract expires. Yacimovich and Eldad head the Knesset caucus against corruption.
Following a meeting of the State Control Committee on Monday on another matter, Lindenstrauss gave panel chairman Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) the same information he had provided in his statement. However, he added that he "assumed that in tomorrow's [Tuesday's] meeting, I will be able to say more than I have now." Neither Zelekha nor his attorney, Boaz Ben-Tzur, were available to comment on the meeting.
In a related development, the watchdog organization Ometz said in a letter to Bar-On that if the finance minister did not change his mind and extend Zelekha's contract, it "would regard itself as free to take any measures to bring about the nullification of the decision, including by petitioning the High Court of Justice."
In the letter to Bar-On, Ometz wrote, "You explained your decision to depose Zelekha as a matter of a contract having expired. But in so doing, you are only trying to make yourself look innocent. The truth behind your decision cannot be denied: It is revenge against a person who dared to hurt your friend and political patron, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert."
Zelekha testified before Lindenstrauss that Olmert had intervened on behalf of two Jewish businessmen friends from abroad - Australian billionaire Frank Lowy and American Slim-Fast magnate S. Daniel Abraham - to help them win the public tender for the sale of the controlling interest in Bank Leumi when Olmert served as minister of finance.
On Monday, State Attorney Eran Shendar said in a statement that Bar-On's decision was proper and that he did not intend to intervene in the matter. Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander also said there was nothing wrong with Bar-On's decision not to rehire Zelekha after this contract had expired and that this was not the same as firing a civil service employee.
Zelekha then asked Lindenstrauss to issue an order to protect him. The state comptroller is empowered to do so in cases where an employee has been harmed because he has complained that his employer or a fellow employee was guilty of corruption. The question is whether allowing a contract to expire at the end of term and not rehiring the employee can be defined as "harming" him.
Zelekha's lawyer has also said he intends to petition the High Court against Bar-On's decision.