The public expectations from retired judge Micha Lindenstrauss when he became state comptroller, seven years ago, were modest. With their reserved manner, his predecessors were generally seen as establishmentarian, and Lindenstrauss was expected to follow in their footsteps. But the forecasts were disproved when he changed the character of state supervision. He issued scathing reports, named names, clashed with prime ministers and senior officials and forced the subjects of his scrutiny to take his conclusions seriously and to correct oversights in a timely manner.
In a few weeks Lindenstrauss will be succeeded by District Court Judge Joseph Shapira. If the Knesset members who guaranteed his majority vote see him as the opposite of his predecessor, we must hope that he disappoints them. The role of the state comptroller, in contrast to the president of the state, is not to represent and unite the nation. The comptroller must find fault, with a view to correction, to uncover the moral turpitude of figures in positions of responsibility and to deter others. Especially in matters of life and death, of war and the military.
Retiring at the same time as Lindenstrauss is the head of military investigations in the State Comptroller's Office, Maj. Gen. (res. ) Yaakov Orr. Under their guidance the comptroller's office penetrated hidden corners in the defense establishment, the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad no less than in the Israel Defense Forces, and in terms of cooperation even more. Had these organizations heeded the comptroller's warnings before the start of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the Winograd inquiry committee established after it ended might have been unnecessary.
The latest installment of the comptroller's annual report, as reported by Amos Harel in Haaretz, depicts in a critical manner a profoundly flawed organizational and moral situation in the army: the struggle between the Education Corps and the Military Rabbinate, two fundamentally problematic entities in a democratic army, in a state that is dragging its feet on separating religion and state. Particular worrying are the attempts by the military rabbis to control the material being passed on to the soldiers. The IDF has proved overly weak in dealing with these bodies. A determined secular government is needed to right this wrong.
Lindenstrauss and his colleagues deserve thanks. Although the state of Israel is not a better place at the end of their term than it was at the start, at least its problems have been put on the table, honestly and courageously. Now they must be addressed.
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