Knesset extends Lindenstrauss term by 3 months

In 24-hour period, bill passes allowing State Comptroller to finish Harpaz probe; Justice Ministry: Move is unconstitutional.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Knesset passed a law extending State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’s tenure by three months on Tuesday in an expedited process, despite opposition from the Justice Ministry due to constitutional issues.
Lindenstrauss, whose term as comptroller officially ends on Sunday, will be permitted to finish his investigation of the Harpaz scandal, which involves an alleged forgery by a confidant of former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
At the same time, Judge Joseph Shapira is expected to take his position as new state comptroller on Sunday and will work on all topics other than the Harpaz affair. Shapira will decide which resources Lindenstrauss will be able to use to continue working on his report.
The bill underwent an accelerated legislative process, in which it was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday and passed its first plenum reading Monday evening. Less than 24 hours later, it passed second and third (final) votes with 13 MKs in favor and one opposed.
According to the new law, an outgoing comptroller can take up to three months to finish a report after his term ends if he has already submitted a draft.
Therefore, Lindenstrauss can complete his report on the Harpaz affair, but not on the “Bibitours” scandal about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s trips abroad.
On Tuesday morning, the Knesset State Control Committee held a meeting to discuss the bill, which was proposed by committee chairman Uri Ariel (National Union), in which the Justice Ministry presented its opposition to the legislation.
Sarit Spiegelstein from the Justice Ministry’s legislation department pointed out that Ariel’s bill defies the Basic Law on the state comptroller, which allows each comptroller to serve one term and no longer.
As such, she said the Basic Law should be amended.
“Reports are prepared by staff and not the comptroller himself,” Spiegelstein explained. “Therefore, there is no reason for the new comptroller to finish a report the previous one started.”
Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon agreed with the Justice Ministry’s position, and suggested that the bill be changed to require Shapira to approve of Lindenstrauss’s report and forbid the outgoing comptroller, who already finished a draft of the Harpaz report, from collecting further testimony on the issue.
Ariel responded that he will propose bills to change the Basic Law, and called for other MKs to suggest potential amendments.