Natan Sharansky explained his resignation from the government by citing its refusal to condition the disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria - which he refers to as "an Israeli concession in the peace process" - on democratic reforms by the Palestinians.
Sharansky sold his friend, George Bush, the "town square test," which says that a democratic country is one in which any citizen can protest publicly against the government, without any harm coming to them. In Israel, any individual can cry to high heaven that his government is making a mockery of the law, and he can even shout as loud as he can that his elected officials care about protests as much as they care about last year's snowfall.
In unusual cases, for example, if an official report charges that Mr. Democracy, as housing minister, was "an accomplice to the tangible erosion of the principle of the rule of law," the government will form a ministerial committee. One minister out of the eight on that committee showed up at the last meeting the chairman called. The State of Israel is indeed blessed with the right to protest and plenty of criticism. Only yesterday, the state comptroller delivered to the Knesset yet another annual report full of revelations about serious flaws in public administration. Along with a summary of the report, if the reports about the basketball game in Moscow allow room for it, there will no doubt appear the annual article, "Give the state comptroller teeth."
The state comptroller does not have a dental problem. The law gave the office broad powers, as in any properly run democracy, including the authority to question under caution. The state comptroller's job is to provide the meat, and the job of the media, the Knesset, and the state's law enforcement agencies is to dig their teeth into it.
The current comptroller, former justice Eliezer Goldberg, investigated Ehud Barak's campaign financing, rummaged around in the Sharon family's affairs, and did not let go of Minister Tzachi Hanegbi until the attorney general gave the material to the police. Many of attorney Talia Sasson's findings about the financing of the illegal outposts by the taxpayer are scattered through the annual and special reports that Goldberg has delivered to the Knesset over the last seven years. Goldberg did not hesitate to enter the holy of holies of the defense establishment, and he declared war on the plague of political appointments to state jobs.
Protesting against public officials who go astray, and their punishments, are not the purview of the comptroller. That's in the hands of the public and its representatives. The comptroller is not to blame for the fact that the politicians, including premiers and ministers, are only required to pay a price if they are convicted in a court of law. It's not the comptroller's problem that managerial incompetence, sheer stink, and even suspicion of receiving bribes have become acceptable way stations on the way to the top. Goldberg, who will complete his term in another six weeks, doesn't have to be any more worried than any other citizen about the lack of interest in who will replace him.
In the era before the outgoing comptroller's appointment, the political echelon was frightened of the role of the comptroller, and the media would discuss at length the advantages and disadvantages of the various candidates. Now, nobody has noticed that according to the law, there are only three more weeks to the end of the process of choosing a new comptroller. After all, this isn't as important as which franchisees will broadcast our entertainment over the coming years, let alone the dilemma of who will be the chief of staff to execute the political echelon's orders to evacuate the settlers of Gush Katif.
The longing to get out of the Death Strip, the revulsion with the fanatics of the right, and the admiration for Sharon's "courage" and "determination" have castrated the criticism and neutered the critics. The main opposition party, Labor, has disappeared under the government table; the second party, Shinui, was thrown out of the government but saved it in the Knesset; and Yahad is busy with self-criticism.
Who has time for or is interested in warnings about the perpetuation of the freeze in the peace process, Hamas taking over in the territories or a renewal of the terror attacks, as long as Sharansky can protest in the town square against "Israeli concessions in the peace process without democratic reforms by the Palestinians?"
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