It was a pleasant Jerusalem evening, with good company, in Judge Vardimos Zeiler's apartment on Mendele Mocher Sefarim Street in the summer of 2004. Friends were gathered for a festive meal: Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, Judge Micha Lindenstrauss, Courts Administrator Boaz Okon and the guest of honor - Eran Shendar, former head of the Police Investigations Department (PID), who was recommended for the position of state prosecutor by a committee on which Mazuz, Zeiler and others sat.
When the warning letters sent by the Zeiler Committee - which is investigating the conduct of the police and prosecution in an affair involving the Parinyan brothers, an alleged crime family - were made public, Shendar's name was, surprisingly, left off the list of those who received warnings. This was the case even though Shendar's then-deputy and current successor, Herzl Shviro, is on the list, as are Shlomo Aharonishki, who served as police chief while Shendar headed the PID, and current police chief Moshe Karadi.
The cheerful group of that summer evening has not been idle since. Okon recently resigned, and Lindenstrauss - now the state comptroller - is recommending that Mazuz open a criminal investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to probe charges of political appointments in the Israel Small and Medium Enterprises Authority. Mazuz has passed the recommendation on to Shendar, who is looking for someone else to whom he can pass it. The initial investigation was conducted by the special tasks division of the State Comptroller's Office, which is headed by Yoram Shviro, the brother of Herzl Shviro of the PID.
Lindenstrauss is indeed bringing something to the comptroller's office; Some say that he is breathing new life into it, while others say that he is simply full of hot air. It is strange to hear people saying that they long for the days when the State Comptroller's Office was almost a covert organization, like the Shin Bet security service or the Mossad, even though this anonymity, which shrouded the comptrollers as well as those they were criticizing, did not help to fix shortfalls. The documentation of those shortfalls filled the blue volumes of the comptroller's reports for years, and these reports essentially functioned as worm food. For instance, take the failures of the Israel Defense Forces in Lebanon, which are old news for those familiar with the old critiques.
Olmert, who has been through the North American Bank affair, the Likud invoice affair and the Greek island affair, is now caught up in half a dozen examinations and investigations, some of which are serious in their possibly criminal implications. He has been pushed into a corner and is trying in vain to change the subject. But the subject is Olmert, not Lindenstrauss.
Olmert's spokespeople are essentially saying that state comptrollers' statements, like decisions in many fields, including politics and even law, are not an exact science, but are influenced by the identity of the decision-maker. This characteristic sometimes, but not always, bothers high-level suspects. It is possible that another judge, someone other than Oded Mudrik, would have convicted Olmert in the Likud invoice affair instead of building a spectacular scaffolding on which to hang an acquittal. And it is possible that another attorney general, someone other than Mazuz, would not have closed the cases against Olmert and Ariel Sharon in the Greek island affair.
Olmert is trying to mock Lindenstrauss and then portray the comptroller's decisions as an emotional reaction to this provocation. It is a desperate attempt that does not convince those aware of the facts. A state comptroller's report is not the private whim of whoever heads the office. The voice is the voice of Micha, but the hands are the hands of the professionals. The comptroller's office is only the last stop: The report must first survive the crossfire of workers, task forces, legal advisors and division heads.
But Lindenstrauss does not stand alone; he is joined by Ya'akov Borovsky, the comptroller's adviser on the fight against corruption. Borovsky, who previously headed the police's Northern District, lost out to Karadi in the race for police chief, swallowed his pride and offered to continue serving, in the role of head of the investigations department. He was not wanted there, just as the then incoming chief of staff, Dan Halutz, did not want Major General Gabi Ashkenazi to head Military Intelligence last year - a job subordinate to the chief of staff, but one that entails a degree of independence and connections outside the army.
Borovsky was forced to move to the state's investigations department: the State Comptroller's Office. Mazuz, Shendar and senior police officials have left an abominable vacuum when it came to fighting government corruption. This vacuum is now being filled by Lindenstrauss, Borovsky, Yoram Shviro and their colleagues. Olmert is fighting for his life; they are fighting for the life of the country.
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