Analysis: Criticism of Lindenstrauss based on misunderstanding

Comptroller dogged by lack of communication.

Lindenstrauss AJ 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Lindenstrauss AJ 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Once again, the state comptroller is facing severe public criticism, this time for his handling of the investigation into the state of preparedness of the home front before and during the second Lebanese war. Some of the criticism has to do with Micha Lindenstrauss's conduct and style, which are almost revolutionary in comparison with those of his predecessors. There has never before been a state comptroller as extroverted, talkative and combative as Lindenstrauss. No one before him maintained so little distance between himself and the outside world, including the Knesset and the media. By behaving in this way, Lindenstrauss may be hoping to be a more effective fighter against corruption and incompetence in the public sector, but he has also made himself more vulnerable to the harsh polemics normally reserved for those holding less august positions. Having said that, it appears that some, if not most, of the criticism leveled against Lindenstrauss regarding the home front report is based on lack of communication between him and his detractors. Lindenstrauss did not say at any time in the past month that the draft report he had been asked to prepare criticized individuals or institutions. As Shlomo Gur, director-general of the State Comptroller's Office, told The Jerusalem Post, that had never been his intention and, therefore, it did not require the High Court of Justice to prevent him from doing so. Apparently, the only genuine disagreement between Lindenstrauss and his critics, including Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, Knesset legal adviser Nurit Elstein and OC Home Front Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Gershon, is over the nature of the "findings" that Lindenstrauss wanted to divulge in the report and the general recommendations he wanted to make. According to Gur, neither the findings nor the recommendations went into great detail. We may never know what Lindenstrauss's report actually contains. If the High Court sides with Mazuz and upholds the petition, the report will be shelved. By the time the State Comptroller's final report is published in another four months, the interim report will be no more than a footnote in the story. What is clear from the disclosures of the past few days is that the gap between Lindenstrauss and his critics is not nearly as great as it had appeared. The crucial concern, that Lindenstrauss would brand individuals without giving them the chance to defend themselves, was unfounded. The other key issue that has arisen is the alleged feud between Lindenstrauss and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Alleged," because it is by no means clear that the state comptroller is "picking" on the prime minister. Without going into all the other investigations involving alleged administrative or criminal misconduct by Olmert, the facts in the case of the home front investigation are objective and clear. According to Lindenstrauss, he asked the prime minister for protocols and documents on August 28 and received the last of them on November 11, two and a half months later. He asked Olmert to appear before the investigating team on December 12. Olmert said he did not have time and that he would reply in writing. Lindenstrauss sent 12 questions to Olmert on January 31. He still has not received the answers. Lindenstrauss said no other minister or senior official behaved the same way. All appeared in person before the committee and all handed over the files he requested almost immediately. Olmert may accuse Lindenstrauss of being out to get him. However, he has not explained why he failed to cooperate with the investigation. On the face of it, it appears that the state comptroller's criticism is well-founded.