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The Prime Minister's Office came out swinging, following the publication of the state comptroller's harshly critical report on the performance of the Home Front on Wednesday, rolling out its own 52-page booklet answering the report's findings and taking direct aim at State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.
In the booklet, the PMO accuses Lindenstrauss of "superficiality" and seeking headlines.
While praising the report as an "important layer" in learning the lessons of the war, the booklet lashes into Lindenstrauss for adding at the last minute an introductory summary chapter at odds with the rest of the report, which was not part of the draft that the Prime Minister's Office was given ahead of time and asked to comment on.
"There is a yawning and unbridgeable gap between the professional and in-depth 582-page, 17-chapter report, which was written by people in the State Comptroller's Office, and the tendentious and superficial summary that appears in the report's abstract, which apparently reflects the personal opinion of the state comptroller toward a number of people, foremost the prime minister."
The Prime Minister's Office said that it seemed that the summary was meant "to create headlines in the media, and does not reflect the report itself. The state comptroller, as he is wont to do, marks attractive targets, as he fires in all directions, in order to gain headlines and create a public response."
The Prime Minister Office's responded to the criticism in the report by saying that the problems in the Home Front that were revealed during the war were foreseen in numerous reports that the State Comptroller's Office had put out since 1994.
"Instead of asking why these fundamental problems in the Home Front were not corrected over the last 12 years," the booklet says, "the state comptroller chose to direct his poisoned arrows at the government which was in power for two months. Was there really an expectation that within two months the government would correct all the problems of the Home Front that have accompanied Israel for a generation?"
In a briefing with reporters held Tuesday, the day before the report was released but embargoed until Lindenstrauss presented the document to the Knesset, Ra'anan Dinur, director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, questioned Lindenstrauss's use of language.
He said that Lindenstrauss chose to use the expression "eclipse of reason" in his summary chapter three times, even though the phrase did not appear once in the entire report. Dinur said that Lindenstrauss used this phrase because it appeared in the damning Agranat Commission report that followed the Yom Kippur War, and Lindenstrauss was keen on creating parallels between that document and his own.
Dinur said it was ridiculous to pin the failings of the Home Front on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Any reasonable person knows that it is impossible in two months to correct mistakes that were made over the last 10 years," he said.
Dinur took issue with the report's findings that there had been no serious discussion about the Home Front situation until July 30, saying that the issue came up at every single cabinet and security cabinet meeting that was held during the war, including the initial cabinet meeting where the decision to launch the war was made.
"The claim that the decision [to go to war] was made without the government's understanding the ramifications for the Home Front contradict the facts," the PMO's booklet said. The booklet brings quotes from the minutes of the cabinet meeting on July 12, where widespread military action was approved showing that there was consideration of the ramifications of IDF action on the Home Front.
It also quotes from ensuing meetings during which the situation at the Home Front was discussed.
Dinur said that a number of the assumptions that the government was working under, such as the local authorities in the North could deal with the crisis in the same effective way that the Ramat Gan municipality dealt with the Scud missiles in 1991 and the Jerusalem municipality dealt with gunfire on Gilo during the beginning of the second intifada, were mistaken.
While some of the local authorities operated up to acceptable standards and even beyond, others Dinur said, "did not deliver the services."
Dinur also bemoaned the fact that there was not one governmental body that, in the model set up after the Gulf War, was responsible for the Home Front. Since the war, he said, it has been made clear that the Defense Ministry now has ultimate authority and responsibility.
Regarding the state comptroller's finding that the government did not properly prepare and carry out the evacuation of citizens, Dinur said it wasn't that the government was ineffective but that the plans that were in place for evacuation did not take into consideration a scenario where "half the country would be under a missile threat."
Asked if the Home Front was better prepared now than a year ago, Dinur said, "If a war broke out tomorrow, we are better prepared than we were a year ago, but it is not the optimal place I would like to be."