Lindenstrauss' Honor

If Yachimovich and Lindenstrauss want to transmit a message to the public in favor of corruption-busters, it can be done by other means.

Everyone knows that Yaron Zelekha's days are numbered. Everyone understands that he cannot continue at his post. Even Zelekha knows it. If he really thought he had a chance, he would not act like a kamikaze. He would not continue lashing out at the prime minister ("Herzl would turn in his grave"); he would not mock Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ("a weak person and that is why he was appointed"); he would not deride Yemima Mazuz, the legal adviser to the Finance Ministry ("she insisted on turning a blind eye"); he would not have attacked former treasury director-general Yossi Bachar ("he should be worried about the truth coming out"); and he certainly would not have allowed his attorney to portray the Finance Ministry leadership as a bunch of puppets ("Olmert is once again making cynical use of treasury officials").

This is not the behavior of someone who is really bent on "completing his professional mission." This is not the behavior of someone who has something to lose.

Why then does Zelekha insist on prolonging this farce and turning the civil service into a joke? Because of ego. Because of principle. Zelekha is ready to resign, but only at his initiative, and not a moment before Ehud Olmert does. Not one second before the prime minister gets hit with the longed-for indictment - and Zelekha is declared the winner. Only then will he calm down and announce his resignation. True, it's a gamble. An indictment may not be issued. But, as noted, Zelekha has nothing to lose.

However, Zelekha is no longer the story. Sooner or later he will be out of our lives. The real story is the state comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss. He knows Zelekha is done for. He also understands that Zelekha's continuing in his post damages the civil service. Why does he, too, insist on prolonging the farce and providing Zelekha with temporary immunity as "corruption-buster?" (A move that even one of Lindenstrauss' predecessors, Miriam Ben-Porat, defined as unjustified.)

That is the very reason why Zelekha is digging in. Because Lindenstrauss is invested up to his neck as his main supporter. Their egotism is inextricably entwined. Zelekha's dismissal would be Lindenstrauss' failure, and he cannot let it happen. At least not easily. This is a game of honor, and all the rest is a sham.

Lindenstrauss is a gambler, too. The time he has bought Zelekha, he hopes, will be put to good use and will lead to an indictment against Olmert. If it does not, more time can be bought with a High Court petition. In the worst case, he will endure an "honorable" defeat - he will demonstrate he has not abandoned his man, that he is fighting for him to the end. But the comptroller is gambling with the public's chips. He is sacrificing the good of the civil service for extraneous interests. We do not need the Bank of Israel governor to tell us that the cost is the paralysis of the treasury for an unknown period. Until recently Lindenstrauss' passion for defending Zelekha could be interpreted as serving the public's interest in bringing the truth to light in the Bank Leumi affair. But now, after the material has been given to the attorney general and the Israel Police has been brought into the picture, his job is done, just as Zelekha's job is done. Even those who see Olmert as the king of the corrupt who should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law will find it difficult to explain what public interest justifies leaving Zelekha in his post.

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich tried: "The public interest," she told Army Radio, "is that the individual who exposed the suspicions of corruption against the prime minister not become a target of smears, falsehoods and unending attempts at dismissal." Behind this reasoning hides the assumption that all claims against Zelekha, including those of senior treasury officials past and present, are nothing but a well-orchestrated vendetta; that everyone, including Miriam Ben-Porat and Stanley Fischer, are acting at the behest of a corrupt prime minister.

Not only is this assumption groundless, at least until the legal system decides differently, it is also illogical. If Yachimovich and Lindenstrauss want to transmit a message to the public in favor of corruption-busters, it can be done by other means; for example, giving Zelekha an Israel Prize for his life's work in protecting ethical standards (on the recommendation of the attorney general). That will transmit the message far more clearly than sticking the man down the treasury's throat.