Despite a plea from Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik not to turn the State Comptroller's Report on the government's functioning during the Second Lebanon War into a personal vendetta, the Prime Minister's Office did just that on Wednesday. After the report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss sharply criticized the performance of national and local governments in protecting the home front, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office responded by saying that "There is a yawning and unbridgeable gap between the professional and in-depth report that was written by people in the State Comptroller's Office, and the tendentious and superficial summary that appears in the report's abstract. "It apparently reflects the personal opinion of the state comptroller toward a number of people, foremost the prime minister." More on the comptroller's Home Front report:
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The Prime Minister's Office said it seemed the summary was meant "to create headlines in the media and does not reflect the report itself. The state comptroller, as he is wont, marks attractive targets, as he fires in all directions to gain headlines and generate a public response."
A few minutes before the Prime Minister's Office's response was released, but long after its contents were known, Lindenstrauss said he hoped "that everyone who received the report will treat it in a statesmanlike way."
Asked how he felt about the attacks against him by Olmert and others, he added, "A report like this is not about feelings. It is a matter of examination carried out by professionals over a long period of time, and I hope that everyone who reads it, hears it and has to implement it will act in a statesmanlike way."
But Lindenstrauss did not mince words in the report itself. In his introduction to the 582-page report, he wrote: "The facts show that the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, the former defense minister, Amir Peretz, the former chief of General Staff, Dan Halutz, and the head of the Home Front Command, Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Gershon, each one according to his own role, gravely failed in the decision-making process and in their appraisals and actions in dealing with the home front during the war in Lebanon."
"The facts detailed in the report [also] show us that the governments of Israel, the political and executive echelons, did not do what they should have done over a period of years in preparing the home front and did not hold general and operational appraisals about its role during a state of emergency," Lindenstrauss added.
The report includes 17 chapters addressing the performance of all government institutions on the national and local level, and of vital commercial institutions that played a role in the war. These include the Prime Minister's Office, the Defense Ministry, the Home Front Command, the Public Security Ministry, the Fire and Rescue Services, the health and welfare services, the postal, banking and transportations systems, and local authorities. The state comptroller also devoted a special chapter to the voluntary organizations that helped the residents of the North during the fighting.
Lindenstrauss found that there was confusion regarding the responsibilities of each of the many government bodies involved in protecting the home front. This stemmed in part from the large number of laws and regulations that deal with the subject. He called for the establishment of an office to coordinate between and oversee the actions of the different bodies.
There were also problems at the top level of decision-makers regarding the home front, he wrote. For example, on July 12, the day the government decided to reply in force to the kidnapping and killing of IDF soldiers early that morning, no "crucial and detailed facts" were presented regarding the preparedness of the home front for what the ministers knew for certain would be Hizbullah retaliation for IDF air strikes.
It was more than two weeks later, on July 30, that the government held its first detailed assessment of the situation on the home front.
Lindenstrauss found that in the years before the outbreak of the war, previous governments had not taken steps to prepare the home front for an emergency. This failure was particularly severe because since 1994, state comptrollers had issued reports pointing out the weaknesses in home front protection and recommending solutions.
But the failures were not only of previous governments, wrote Lindenstrauss. On July 12, Olmert warned that Israel was entering a "new situation" because the civilian sector was in immediate danger from warfare. Nevertheless, "the expected attacks on the home front were not translated by the ministers and the defense establishment into activities to create a systemic and comprehensive response. At any rate, the issue of the home front was not properly investigated, and the weight given to it in the decision-making process was unsatisfactory."
The state comptroller also found that the cabinet was passive in its handling of the home front. It reacted to problems but did not initiate anything and often responded with too little too late.
Key chapters in the report are described in detail in the inner pages of the Post.