Meridor Leads Charge Against the Gov't

Did anyone say Olmert?

Yesterday was the first day of this year's Herzliya Conference, which took place in the Knesset, and State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss spoke at a session on the Winograd Committee.

His view, he said, is that "personal responsibility applies to both elected and appointed public servants; no distinction should be made between them."

The lowly guard is not to blame, he continued; "the blame belongs to the person at the top of the pyramid." Nevertheless, he refrained from mentioning the prime minister by name.

Sparks fly.

Rishon Letzion Mayor Meir Nitzan, who also chairs the Kadima Party council, stole the show at the session on Winograd. He was justified in complaining that the panel was one-sided and hostile to the prime minister. But he did not make do with protesting. He stormed the dais, added himself to the panel and demanded speaking time. Had Israel displayed similar determination during the Second Lebanon War, the Winograd Committee might never have existed. "[Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan] Nasrallah is talking about body parts, and you're talking about how to slice and dice the prime minister," Nitzan charged.

Meridor roars.

Former justice minister Dan Meridor led the assault on the government. "Clearly there was a failure here," he said. Likud faction chair Gideon Sa'ar accused the government of turning civilians, both in the North during the Lebanon war and in the South today, into "the Israel Defense Forces' flak jacket. This is a deliberate abandonment of the citizenry."

A foreign city.

The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies has counted 300 cabinet decisions on Jerusalem, of which 70 percent were never implemented.

That is what institute director Ora Ahimeir told a panel discussion on the capital. But no governmental failure can explain the fact that, years after the intifada passed its peak, 27 percent of Israelis are still afraid to live in Jerusalem.

Zvi Zameret, head of the Yad Ben-Zvi institute, said that teens who come to the capital on organized tours view it as "a foreign city" and "the capital of a different nation."

A chief of staff in distress.

During the conference's opening ceremony, President Shimon Peres called for tolerance toward the ultra-Orthodox.

He also offered a practical suggestion for getting them into the job market: enabling them to pray at work. IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who gave the ceremony's keynote address, broadcast a distress signal.

"The IDF needs trust and backing from Israeli society," he said. "We need the people of Israel just as the people of Israel need the IDF." In other words, the chief of staff is seeking backing. It is not clear that he will receive it.