State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss created sky-high expectations over the past few months over his intentions in his final report on the disastrous Carmel fire of December 2010. We might have thought the final report would set a new threshold of accountability for elected officials: No longer just overall responsibility, but the payment of a personal and political price - resigning one's membership in the cabinet, or at least from a certain ministerial post.
The expectation was that this would be Lindenstrauss' legacy and that in the future it would be said there were two periods of government in Israel - before the Carmel fire report and after it.
In fact, the comptroller cited two high degrees of responsibility: overall and individual, but he did not say whether the person bearing such responsibility should resign. The comptroller expressed the hope that at this point, the Knesset and public would take over. This is not very likely because the government has a solid majority in the Knesset, the ministers who are the target of the comptroller's criticism enjoy Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's support (the latter, too, is among those criticized), elections are not in the offing and the system of government does not permit voters to isolate a person or an issue out of a party candidates' list and a platform.
The thorough work of the state comptroller's staff left no stone unturned in the failure-riddled realm of Israel's firefighting and rescue services.
Previous comptrollers had also pointed up these failings over the years. This fact in and of itself is problematic. All governments, all prime ministers (including Netanyahu in his first term in office), all finance ministers (including Netanyahu almost a decade ago), all interior ministers (including Interior Minister Eli Yishai in a previous government), sinned in some way.
In the current government, the comptroller aimed his barbs at five men: Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Yishai.
When the relative significance of the various levels of responsibility are considered together, it seems Yishai bears the greatest responsibility. He must resign. If he does not, Netanyahu must find a way to take the interior portfolio away from him, even if, as leader of Shas, he remains one of the prime minister's deputies. If Netanyahu lets Yishai stay on at Interior, the word "responsibility" means nothing.
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