Crisis Over Olmert-Comptroller Clash

The State Comptroller plans to publish his probe on the Home Front after the PM refused to answer questions. MK’s threaten a state inquiry.

Hana Levi Julian,

State Comptroller and Ombudsman Micha Lindenstrauss is gearing up to publish the initial findings of his investigation into the Home Front situation during last summer’s war against Hizbullah, in spite of fierce resistance from the office of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after he refused to appear at committee hearings.

Lindenstrauss is preparing a report on the state of the home front during the war against Hizbullah, while the Winograd Commission prepares its report on the mismanagement of the war itself.

Unlike Defense Minister Amir Peretz and other senior officials, Olmert did not appear in person for his questioning and asked for an extra month to prepare written responses.The report, said Knesset member Zevulun Orlev, chairman of the Knesset’s State Control Committee, had been held up more than four months “due to the Prime Minister’s failure to cooperate.”

The National Union / National Religious Party Knesset member accused Olmert of “unacceptable, unreasonable and unworthy behavior.” Orlev charged Olmert and his aides with actions which he said “conveys indifference and lack of concern to the State’s citizens as to their fate on the home front, if and when the next war takes place.”
Likud Knesset Member Yuval Steinitz also attacked Olmert Sunday for his failure to cooperate with Comptroller Lindenstrauss, saying Olmert has abandoned the home front three times.

First, he said, Olmert failed to stop the Katyusha attacks on Israeli towns. Second, he failed to declare a state of war which would have helped give civilians the proper support. Finally, he said, Olmert is now also working against Lindenstrauss’s efforts to learn lessons from the war.

National Union Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad added his voice to the Prime Minister’s critics, saying, “He is prepared to be investigated only by the people whom he appointed – that is to say, the Winograd Commission” and not by Lindenstrauss.”

Knesset member and Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin echoed the sentiment, charging “Only a few weeks after appointing a justice minister…Olmert’s people, ministers and party officials are criticizing the state comptroller like no other government ever dared to.

Several MKs have demanded that the Home Front’s functioning during the war be investigated by a state inquiry which has legal power to summon witnesses and to punish officials who are found guilty of mismanagement.
Sources in Olmert’s office, meanwhile, had harsh criticism for Lindenstrauss, accusing the State Comptroller of overstepping his authority during his investigation. Olmert aides said Lindenstrauss strayed into Winograd territory with some of the questions he asked the Prime Minister.

Olmert’s staff also accused Lindenstrauss of publishing his report without including Olmert’s answers to the questions. They claimed that Lindenstrauss decided to publish his report at this time due to a desire for publicity and nothing more.

Kadima faction members said Olmert’s delays in responding to questions posed by the State Comptroller were due to his tight schedule, rather than a desire to abdicate responsibility for his conduct during the war. “The comptroller’s demand that the Prime Minister answer within two weeks questions formulated in three weeks is an unreasonable demand which casts doubt on whether [he] wants real answers, or answers aimed at pre-empting the Winograd Commission and gaining points in the media [and] public arena,” said Kadima Knesset member Yoel Hasson.