Ombudsman: IDF 'occupied' private home in Galilee without owner's permission
Micha Lindenstrauss' annual report: Gov't often exhibits too much inflexibility and can even harm the citizen.
Ombudsman and State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss released his annual report to the public on Monday. It stated that the citizens of Israel had submitted more complaints in the past year, particularly about the National Insurance Institute and the police. There were also complaints about the Israel Defense Forces carrying out exercises in Israeli Arab citizens' houses, a person who was registered as dead even though he was living, and someone who complained about the attitude of the officials in the Israeli consulate in Buenos Aires.
"We are living in a period when the central government and local government often exhibit too much inflexibility toward the citizen, harm him and sometimes even prevent him from receiving benefits he is entitled to," Ombudsman and State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss wrote Monday when he submitted his annual Ombudsman Report for the year 2005.
A total of 7,825 complaints were received by the ombudsman in 2005 as compared with 6,840 in 2004 and 6,129 in 2003. Altogether since 2003 there has been a 7.72 percent increase in the number of complaints received. The seven bodies about which the public had the most complaints last year were: the National Insurance Institute (NII) - 692 complaints, Israel Police - 471, the Finance Ministry - 301, the Interior Ministry - 300, the Justice Ministry - 293, and the Ministry of Education and Sport - 246 complaints.
Altogether 6,649 complaints were fully investigated during 2005. The ombudsman pointed out that "to our great regret, there are quite a number of cases where the investigation is not yet complete and the citizens are expecting to get the results of their clarification at an early date. It is a general rule of thumb that a swift conclusion in a reasonable amount of time, even if it is short, is preferable to one that is well explained, well documented and detailed with many professional points but delayed and given late."
An analysis of the results of the examination reveals that, with regard to 49.9 percent of the complaints (3,451) the investigation was completed, a decision was made about the matter raised in the complaint and it was stated whether or not the complaint was justified. With regard to 27.3 percent of the complaints (1,888) the investigation was stopped because the matter raised had been corrected or because the persons who lodged the complaint had withdrawn it or did not respond to the ombudsman's questions to him or because the ombudsman believed that the ombudsman's office was not the right place to investigate the complaint.
Some 22.8 percent of the complaints (1,573) were turned down out of hand.
A total of 32.7 percent of the complaints (1,129) about which conclusions were reached, were found to be justified. The following are the amount of complaints that were found justified in the various ministries and bodies:
One complaint to the ombudsman and state comptroller concerned a exercise in which Israel Defense Forces soldiers practiced occupying a house in a Galilee Arab village.
A resident of the Arab village of Jish in Galilee was awoken at 2:30 A.M. in May 2005 due to unusual noises in his yard. He got up and discovered a group of soldiers trying to "occupy" his house as part of a military exercise. The family had not received any prior warning of the exercise and also no one in the IDF had bothered to ask for the family's permission before infiltrating into their private property.
Similar complaints have been received from other Arab villages in the Galilee in previous years.
The man complained to the ombudsman who demanded an explanation from the IDF. In response, the IDF Northern Command said that it had made sure that the regulations governing military exercises in inhabited areas were observed more stringently.