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Like President Moshe Katsav, who chose to deal with the suspicions against him with a ferocious attack on the attorney general, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is defending himself against the state comptroller's findings on the Investment Center affair by slinging mud at Micha Lindenstrauss. Their unbridled diatribes show that even in their high office, they are the authentic representatives of the Likud Central Committee, illustrating the truth of the 250-year-old adage "style is the man."

In his unforgettable appearence at the President's Residence in January, Katsav accused Menachem Mazuz of lying and breach of trust. His associates continued down this road in announcing that they have lost faith in the attorney general's ability to discuss Katsav's contentions and therefore they recommend the president waive the hearing. Make no mistake about the message in this approach: Mazuz is no longer an impartial and straightforward individual worthy of being entrusted with fateful legal decisions; he is tainted and biased, and his judgment cannot be trusted.

Olmert acted similarly toward Lindenstrauss. The state comptroller handed Mazuz a report five days ago on Olmert's involvement in granting illicit benefits to a company called TS Silicate, which allegedly involved a conflict of interests. In response, the prime minister released a statement saying, among other things: "The prime minister has lost his confidence in the state comptroller, whose behavior in this matter has reached new heights in its lack of professionalism and bias." The statement also accused Lindenstrauss of caring only about television ratings and timing his work to media deadlines.

Thus Olmert brought himself and his high office down to the level of a boxer punching the state comptroller in the face in the media ring, seeking to please the crowd in the bleachers. Instead of responding with restraint and politeness, saying something along the lines of "I believe the comptroller is mistaken," or making do with a statement that he would be sending Mazuz his response and would wait for the latter's decision - the prime minister quickly reviled the state comptroller in order to reduce his stature.

What should the ordinary citizen think about the attorney general, the state comptroller, the president and the prime minister, against whom such fire is directed? What validity will their findings and decisions have after the president and the prime minister have called them not worthy of confidence? How should the entire public system start responding to the scrutiny of the state comptroller and the decisions of the attorney general, after the president and the prime minister have given the green light to ignore them? Olmert and Katsav are destroying the state's main systems to ensure decency and proper conduct in public life.

This is not the first time the prime minister has behaved so destructively toward an important state authority. Six months ago he harshly attacked Accountant General Yaron Zelekha. Like Lindenstrauss, Zelekha angered Olmert. Like Lindenstrauss and the Investment Center investigation, Zelekha reviewed Olmert's conduct in the Finance Ministry regarding the tender for the controlling interest in Bank Leumi, and concluded that it should be scrutinized. Olmert responded true to form: His associates spread sullying theories and attributed Zelekha's testimony to nefarious motives, as if Zelekha were the long arm of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Even if Lindenstrauss and Zelekha have their personal weaknesses, Olmert must not malign them. He is not of equal stature. He is the prime minister. He is the apex of the pyramid of government service. He, like the president, must not destroy the infrastructure on which the relationship between the professional and political echelons of civil service are built. Let them both respond to the substance of the suspicions against them.