The prime minister versus Zelekha
The accountant general, Yaron Zelekha, is a man whose people skills are not the most developed. Those who know him describe him as arrogant, stubborn, self-confident, lacking in collegiality, and often unable to differentiate between what is important and what is not.
The accountant general, Yaron Zelekha, is a man whose people skills are not the most developed. Those who know him describe him as arrogant, stubborn, self-confident, lacking in collegiality, and often unable to differentiate between what is important and what is not. In the same breath, they say that he is fair, dedicated to his job and talented. A senior post of this sort, with its advantages and disadvantages, has become in recent days a target for scathing attacks by the prime minister. These constitute a blatant violation of the rules that govern the way the civil service conducts itself.
Olmert is angry at Zelekha because he gave testimony to the State Comptroller regarding the tender for the sale of the controlling shares in Bank Leumi, a case that is now under investigation by the comptroller's office. But Zelekha was fulfilling his professional and civic duty: It is expected that every honest citizen, certainly someone in a senior post in the civil service, will pass on to the proper authorities any information suggestive of improper conduct on the part of a holder of a political or administrative position. The state comptroller is the address for material of this sort, and it is outrageous that the prime minister is besmirching the person who provided the information.
It could be that Zelekha is one of those people who see corruption everywhere and rush to bombard the authorities responsible for ensuring clean government with his imaginary impressions. It could be that he is just mistaken. It could be that he has improper motives. Whatever his reasons for turning to, in this case, the state comptroller, the prime minister cannot vilify his name, belittle his stature, and undermine his authority. Ehud Olmert is prime minister of all of us, including the accountant general. This status is binding and it does not permit the individual standing at the top of the executive pyramid to publicly crush one of his subordinates.
Aides in Olmert's office have fed the press in recent days with claims that Zelekha is acting, in the current circumstances, as the long arm of Benjamin Netanyahu. They are suggesting that the accountant general did not approach State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss because he thought that the prime minister's behavior was improper, but rather because he is trying to serve the political needs of the Likud leader. Olmert's aides are doing this openly and in this are expressing the views of the prime minister.
Therefore, Olmert appears to be acting (at least for now), not as someone who is responding to the substance of the suspicions raised against him by the state comptroller, but as someone who is trying to dismiss them by presenting the source of the testimony, Zelekha, as a conspirator. The public confrontation that Olmert opted for is unacceptable: It destroys the code that regulates the relationship between the political echelon and the professional civil service.
The two are not of equal standing: They have their roles within a clear hierarchy, wherein Olmert is the boss, and one of his duties is to protect whoever is subject to his authority.
The most fitting way for Olmert to have dealt with the testimony of Zelekha was to avoid entirely a public confrontation with the accountant general and to make do with offering his version to the authorities examining the case. Their job is to weigh his version against that of the accountant general and then publish their findings. When Olmert decided he would not make do with a substantive examination of the affair by the authorized bodies, and that he would also try to influence public opinion, the most efficient way (which has been partially utilized in the past) would have been to make public the views of other civil servants involved in the tender, whose versions allegedly refute Zelekha's claims.
The onslaught on the accountant general is an ugly, unacceptable method, and it also misses the target: The claim that Zelekha is in this case acting on behalf of Netanyahu is about as convincing as the claim of President Moshe Katsav that the complaints filed by women against him are part of a political plot.