Analysis: Orlev wants to (mis)use his committee's power to bring down Olmert

Unless the coalition disintegrates, the opposition cannot defeat the government.

zevulun orlev 298 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
zevulun orlev 298 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The political brouhaha over Prof. Yehezkel Dror's statements in an interview with Ma'ariv should be taken with a grain of salt - especially the motivation of State Control Committee Chairman Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) when considering whether to establish a state commission of inquiry to continue the work of the Winograd Committee. Orlev is a member of the opposition and a very talented one at that. As such, he wants to bring the government down as quickly as possible. So do all the members of the opposition. However, unless the coalition disintegrates, the opposition cannot defeat the government in a head-on battle in the Knesset plenum because it lacks the majority to do so. Orlev, however, is in a unique position. He heads a committee which is empowered to order by majority vote the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry. Such a decision depends only upon a majority of his committee and there the opposition has eight MKs compared with seven for the coalition. Of course, judicial commissions of inquiry do not necessarily bring down governments. However, the Kahan Commission recommended that then-defense minister Ariel Sharon be removed from his post in the wake of the 1982 Sabra and Shatilla massacre and the Or Commission recommended that former public security minister Shlomo Ben-Ami never hold that post again. Orlev hopes that the commission he seeks to establish will bring down Olmert and, therefore, the government, which must resign if the prime minister resigns. There has been much complaining, particularly on the part of critics of the Supreme Court, of the over-legalization ("mishpatizatzia") of the political system in Israel. In other words, whenever, for example, a politician or a human rights group is dissatisfied with a government decision, it runs to the court instead of appealing to the electorate or public opinion for redress. Orlev himself has declared that he will never petition the High Court because he is convinced that it is biased. Nevertheless, he is ready to try his luck with a commission of inquiry (even though its members will be appointed by the allegedly biased Supreme Court) to achieve what others seek to use the Supreme Court to achieve - that is, a political decision by other means. If a commission of inquiry is established and reaches conclusions that make it impossible for Olmert to continue, the route to new elections will be that much shorter than if left to the Knesset and public opinion. Orlev's use of the power of the State Control Committee is unprecedented. It has become a tradition that the chairman of the committee is a member of the opposition, since the job of the state comptroller is to uncover faults in government administration. But no one until now has used the committee in such a blatantly political way. Orlev has already engineered the establishment of one commission of inquiry to investigate the government's handling of Holocaust survivors even though he and the rest of the committee knew full well that no government in Israel's history has treated them properly. That decision came after a four-to-one vote in which all of those voting in favor of the motion were, for some reason, members of the opposition. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Orlev demonstrated political correctness (literally) to a fault. He said he had not made up his mind whether or not to vote for a commission of inquiry and was waiting to hear Professor Yehezkel Dror's explanations before doing so. At the same time, after reading the full script of Dror's interview with Ma'ariv, he was convinced that Dror's statements were "grave and severe" and arouse "very, very heavy concerns." Anyone want to bet on how he'll vote on Tuesday?