Zelekha: I'll step down in December

Finance Ministry accountant-general says he'll quit after PM's Leumi probe, implementation of reforms.

YARON Zelekha 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
YARON Zelekha 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Finance Ministry Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha will resign in December, he announced in an interview with Channel 10 on Saturday evening. Zelekha's resignation will follow what he said were the completion of two necessary steps before he could leave his post: a criminal investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert into the Bank Leumi affair and the implementation of a list of reforms within the framework of his position. "I will step down in a month on the date I choose," Zelekha said, claiming that the prime minister's investigation was at an end. Regarding his reforms, the accountant-general said that following months of hard work, "no stone has been left unturned, no shekel unseen and no protocol unrevised." Zelekha, who notified State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss of his intention to resign earlier Saturday, told Channel 10 that had he decided to remain in his position, Lindenstrauss would have issued a defense warrant on his behalf preventing a forced termination from taking place. Last month Zelekha requested that Lindenstrauss issue a temporary order freezing Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On's decision not to extend the accountant-general's term on the grounds that he was a whistle blower and should therefore be allowed to remain in duty. On August 29, Bar-On informed Zelekha that his contract, which was set to expire on October 19, would not be renewed. A few days later, MKs Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) and Arye Eldad (National Union/National Religious Party) filed an appeal against Bar-On's decision, charging that Zelekha was not being allowed to continue working because the accountant-general filed complaints against Olmert with Lindenstrauss. Lindenstrauss pointed out that Bar-On said Zelekha's contract would not be renewed because he believed senior positions should be rotated so that those who hold them do not go stale. However, Lindenstrauss said he was skeptical that was the real reason, noting that after Zelekha complained about Olmert, there were attempts to fire him until Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz made it clear he would not allow it, if only for the fact that people might suspect he was being dismissed because of the Bank Leumi affair. Zelekha was the government official who first raised suspicions of foul play in the tender for the sale of the government's controlling share of Bank Leumi. According to the accountant-general, Olmert allegedly tried to tilt the tender during his tenure as finance minister in 2005 in favor of a personal friend, Australian businessman Frank Lowy. A police investigation recently ended with Olmert as the last witness questioned, but no recommendations to press charges have yet been made. But while Zelekha has won the protection of Lindenstrauss and praise of MKs such as Yacimovich, he has also managed to make some powerful enemies, even outside the context of his whistle-blowing activities. There have been reports recently about complaints concerning the inability of the Treasury to function properly due to difficulties in relations between Zelekha and other Treasury employees. •