All in Favor / Navel-gazing Lies Ahead

Orlev pushing for state commission of inquiry on treatment of Holocaust survivors

The chairman of the Knesset State Control Committee, Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party), said Israel's treatment of Holocaust survivors has been utterly shameful. Assuming the role of opposition chairman, Orlev is using his position to to slam the cabinet in general, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in particular. The official opposition leader, MK Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), can learn a few things from him on how to harass the government.

Olmert's statement about allocating NIS 1.5 billion from the state budget for Holocaust survivors, to be spread over two years, is not enough for Orlev. He is acting to set up a state inquiry commission to examine the cabinet's conduct vis-a-vis Holocaust survivors, and the Control Committee is expected to vote on it in two weeks.

Orlev is not bothered by the possibility that this would be yet another committee that would produce another series of recommendations, and which will gather dust in the treasury's drawers. He insists its recommendations would spur the cabinet to do more for the survivors.

The Control Committee is legally authorized to set up a state commission of inquiry following the special state comptroller's report on the cabinet's treatment of the Holocaust survivors. Fortunately for Orlev, only a regular majority in the committee is required to set up the commission, rather than the two-thirds required following a regular comptroller's report.

In addition, since the comptroller's report was a special one, the committee does not need his approval for the decision to set up a state commission of inquiry. One way or another, anyone who knows Comptroller Michael Lindenstrauss knows he is unlikely to object to a commission that would bash Olmert's government.

The Control Committee has decided once before on setting up a state commission of inquiry. In the mid-1980s, following the crisis brought on by the banks' manipulation of their share prices, the Control Committee decided to set up an inquiry commission headed by retired Justice Moshe Beisky. The MKs joined forces in view of the heavy losses incurred to myriads of Israelis.

Will coalition MKs have the courage to vote for setting up a state inquiry commission? Will the MKs act to improve the Holocaust survivors' appalling situation? Or will they prefer coalition discipline?

Orlev figures he has a majority among the committee's 15 members. He says four of the committee's eight coalition members promised their support. In addition to the seven opposition members, he has 11 in favor and four against. At least on paper.

But in Israel, political promises are not always kept. The coalition can replace maverick MKs in the committee at the last moment. Besides, the allocation of NIS 1.5 billion could change the power balance in the committee.

Therefore the chances for setting up a state commission of inquiry on the issue of Holocaust survivors are not good. However, Orlev will not give up, and will continue to slam his gavel and blast the government. If he doesn't succeed this time, he will pull the same rabbit out of his hat and propose to set up a state commission of inquiry following the comptroller's report on the Second Lebanon War.