Zelicha: 'Finished My Job. I Quit.'
Finance Ministry Accountant General Dr. Yaron Zelicha, who endured months of harassment after initiating a probe of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s actions during the 2005 privatization of Bank Leumi, announced his resignation Saturday night.
Zelicha told Channel 10 he intends to leave his job by the end of the calendar year, saying he has accomplished what he set out to do. “I intended to wait until the investigation (of then-Acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert) was over. It is over, and the results are, without a doubt, clear cut. I wanted to complete the reform package. There is no stone in the state’s budget that I did not turn over, and there is not a single shekel we did not look into,” he said.
Police recently completed the investigation into Olmert’s involvement in the Bank Leumi affair, one of four cases against the Prime Minister currently being probed by police. Olmert is suspected of attempting to manipulate the terms of sale of government shares in the bank in favor of bidding by two of his business associates. The associates later dropped out of the bidding.
Media reports said the police found that had the sale gone through according to Olmert’s amended terms the State of Israel stood to lose $250 million. Olmert’s defenders say it is normal to amend the terms of a deal during the negotiating phase.
The probe was initiated based on testimony by Zelicha. Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, a close associate of the Prime Minister, announced in August that Zelicha’s contract would not be renewed when it ended in October.
“Ever since I exposed the Bank Leumi affair I have not had a single day of peace,” said Zelicha Saturday night, “but it was important for me to show that the AG (Accountant General) is the public treasury’s watchdog and I could not let people, some of whom are suspected of criminal acts, fire me.”
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said Saturday that he will dismantle a committee that was to investigate the Finance Minister’s attempt to fire Zelicha. Lindenstrauss praised the harassed General Accountant, saying “Zelicha fought vigorously for honesty in the public sector and against public corruption.”
Kadima party Knesset Member Otniel Shneller, considered another close associate of the Prime Minister, said after Zelicha’s announcement, “This is a good evening for Israel’s economy.”