Lindenstrauss remarks surprise PMO

Comptroller stresses job's independent nature; MKs reject internal commission.

ami ayalon stern 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
ami ayalon stern 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement on Tuesday in response to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's complaints earlier in the day, saying that "we were amazed to hear - from the media, of course - the state comptroller's grievances. "Section 21 of the state comptroller's law states that the comptroller is obligated to submit an opinion on every issue that falls within his job description, whether he is asked to do so by the Knesset, the committee, or the government," the Prime Minister's Office said. The report also said that "all of the prime minister's moves were coordinated in advance and will continue to be coordinated with the attorney-general. Since we heard from the media that the comptroller wrote a message to the newspapers on his own, we are convinced that he made an innocent mistake, as it is unimaginable that the comptroller does not know the law whose power enables him to act." Analyses:
  • Counting on a forgiving public
  • Aiming for the boomerang effect
  • People won't buy Olmert's ploy Earlier, Lindenstrauss reproached Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for announcing that the government would ask the comptroller's office to look into the home front's readiness for the war. Lindenstrauss clarified that according to law, only the state comptroller's office is authorized to decide what it investigates, and that it was critical the government uphold the comptroller's independence. "The state comptroller learned through the media that the government is interested in placing the responsibility of examination of the home front's readiness upon the comptroller... In any case, according to law, the job of assessing the war in the North was already in the state comptroller's jurisdiction." The comptroller's office has already been investigating the war for the past two weeks. Knesset members from across the political spectrum, including from within the coalition, also slammed Olmert's announcement of two inquiry commissions Monday night with the resounding complaint that it was too little, too late. MKs began their calls for an inquiry into the war more than two weeks ago, and most voiced disappointment with Olmert's decision to forgo a state commission that would have the authority to dismiss top officials. The only support for Olmert's decision to establish the two internal commissions to probe the government and military came from MKs in his Kadima Party. "The Israeli public needs its confidence in its elected officials restored. Only a state commission has the teeth to assure the Israeli public that the matter is truly being investigated," said MK Ami Ayalon (Labor). Ayalon's fellow Labor MK Danny Yatom also called for a state commission, and appealed to cabinet ministers to "demonstrate civic responsibility" and reject Olmert's calls for the two separate committees. "The only obligatory committee is a state commission of inquiry, which is the only one that could see the big picture and examine the relationship linking the political and military echelons," said Yatom. The harshest criticism came from Meretz Knesset members, with Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin awarding Olmert with the "2006 prize for national see-sawer of Israel." "In every step of this war he has wavered and faltered," said Beilin. "The way in which he conducted this war brings shame to his office… and I call upon the committee chairman of the Knesset to take these matters into his own hands." Meretz MKs Haim Oron and Zehava Gal-On joined in Beilin's complaint, with Gal-On claiming that the inquiry was a "fig leaf" to shield Olmert from the real investigation that ought to be launched. Knesset members from the right-wing parties similarly slammed the commission. MK Effi Eitam (National Union-National Religious Party) called Olmert's decision a "commission of foot-dragging and escaping responsibility." His colleague, MK Uri Ariel (NU-NRP), similarly called the commission "nothing but hot air," and called on Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik to convene the Knesset immediately for an emergency session with Olmert. The prime minister was supported by Kadima MK Ruhama Avraham, the chairwoman of the Knesset House Committee, who called his decision "responsible and brave." "This type of inquiry won't demand a price that we can't afford to pay," said Avraham.