What Winograd Thinks of Zelekha

There was no need to wait for the members of the Winograd Committee to be appalled by the destructive effect of public corruption on national security.

If Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had a list of enemies of the sort Richard Nixon kept and which in the end toppled him from the presidency of the United States, two of the most prominent names on it would be former accountant general Yaron Zelekha and State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. Both of them did their jobs faithfully and cut Olmert no slack, and as punishment for this attitude they have become victims of a campaign of systematic vilification and ridicule instigated by the prime minister's supporters in politics and the press.

Now along comes the report of the investigative committee headed by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd, and issues plaudits for the Lindenstrauss-Zelekha school. The complaints against Olmert, which continue to fuel police investigations (while the Bank Leumi case is waiting for the decision of State Prosecutor Moshe Lador), were handled by professionals at the State Comptroller's Office; retired judge Lindenstrauss became their spokesman.

In referring to the Israel Defense Forces and the home front, the Winograd report praised the State Comptroller's Office, referring to "broad treatment," a "thorough and profound" examination and shortcomings in the IDF that "were brought up in a long series of reports." The report states that the members of the committee "are partners to the comptroller's criticisms" and that "had they been implemented more energetically, some of the hitches of the war would have been avoided."

Zelekha's name is not mentioned in the Winograd report but his spirit pervades one of the most important statements in it. It is the spirit of Zelekha, and also possibly the spirit of Police Chief Superintendent Ephraim Ehrlich, the begetters of the committee headed by retired judge Vardi Zeiler. Winograd does not differentiate between officers who need to appeal the chief of staff's position to the defense minister and the prime minister and other, civilian cases.

"It is important to stress," writes Winograd, "that the supreme requirement of loyalty on the part of professionals is to their profession and their position and not to their superior or to the organization in which they serve. Indeed, obligation to a superior or a commander and to an organization in which an individual works is an important part of the professional ethos. A degree of trust and loyalty between individuals who work together is essential for the proper functioning of any team or organization. It is always preferable to start with a warning and a discussion within the organization and in the usual channels. However, when the superior or the organization is acting, in the opinion of professional, in a manner that causes real damage, they must sound the alarm and not be deterred from conflict with their superiors. When it is a matter of grave damage, which is liable to be dangerous, it is the obligation of professionals to sound the alarm about this to the highest levels."

This is exactly what accountant general Zelekha did when, in his opinion, his superior, finance minister Olmert, acted "in a manner that caused real damage." The praise the Winograd report showers on such an approach also is a slap in the face for current Finance Minister Roni Bar-On, who enlisted Zelekha's colleagues to grumble about his shaky relations with department heads at his office.

With the blessing of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, Police Commissioner David Cohen, a police major general and head of the investigations and intelligence division, insisted on continuing the investigation of the Cyril Kern affair, even after one of the main suspects, former prime minister Ariel Sharon, was hospitalized. The investigation is a silent memorial to the increasing trend of political corruption in Israeli politics in the Sharon-Olmert era.

About two years ago, Ruth Gavison, who served as a member of the Winograd Committee, wrote: "A period of determined struggle against government corruption by the law-enforcement system has produced a series of controversial acquittals. This has led to controversy within the law-enforcement system itself with regard to the right way to fight government corruption." The reader will find it easy to guess that she was referring to Dorit Beinisch (now Supreme Court president) and Edna Arbel (now Supreme Court justice) as state attorneys, to Police Major General Moshe Mizrahi as head of the investigations division (and on the other side, to Mazuz, who closed the Greek island case), and also to Olmert as one of those "controversial acquittals" in the Likud receipts trial.

Gavison wrote that during the 2006 elections, various parties "filled senior positions with individuals who were questioned on suspicions of corruption or who, though not brought to trial, were accused of being corrupt; and it was only the bias of the law-enforcement system that 'rescued' them from trial and conviction." Damage to the propriety of the electoral system or fundraising for elections and political appointments, wrote Gavison, are a kind of corruption that is no less dangerous than personal corruption of exploiting the public coffers for private ends.

There was no need to wait for the members of the Winograd Committee to be appalled by the destructive effect of public corruption on national security. However, in the wake of the Winograd report, the alarm-sounders and the critics are entitled to feel that their justness has been recognized.