Lieberman Slams Decision to Oust Accountant General Zelekha

Finance Minister Bar-On informed Zelekha, considered a fighter against corruption, on Thursday that his contract would not be renewed.

Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) slammed Friday the decision not to extend the tenure of Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha, saying the move was a "miserable decision, miserably timed."

Speaking to a forum of Israel Air Force pensioners, Lieberman praised Zelekha and called him "one of the most honest and talented people in the public service."

Finance Minister Roni Bar-On on Thursday morning informed Zelekha that his contract would not be renewed when it finishes at the end of October.

Zelekha responded by saying the decision was "illegal and not binding," adding that Bar-On did not have "the authority to make such a decision."

As Zelekha's contract is scheduled to end at the end of October, he is not officially being fired. Nevertheless, it is clear that other considerations were also involved in the decision.

The finance minister's first action upon taking the job was to bring about an end to the tenure of Zelekha, who was appointed by ex-finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a political rival of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Zelekha also enjoys the strong support of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.

Zelekha's attorney, Boaz Benzur, wrote Bar-On on Thursday, informing him that non-renewal of the contract had no legal standing or force, and if he continues with his actions Zelekha will take legal action, though it is still not clear whether he will petition the Labor Court or the High Court of Justice.

According to Benzur, the law requires that only the same authority that appointed Zelekha's can end his tenure. As the cabinet appointed him, only the cabinet can end his tenure, explained Benzur.

Various organizations including the Movement for Quality Government have already stated that they will petition the High Court of Justice on the matter if necessary.

A number of MKs assume that if Zelekha does not petition the High Court, Lindenstrauss will issue an order blocking his ousting. Lindenstrauss will meet with Zelekha on Monday to discuss the matter.

The comptroller has the authority to prevent the firing or to reinstate a state employee who is fired by giving him protection as a "whistle-blower" against government corruption.

Legal experts assess that that the law is on Zelekha's side.

The High Court of Justice has ruled that terms of certain officials responsible for proper administration and governance, such as the accountant-general post, are not limited by a specific time frame and can only be terminated if there is a legitimate cause that would stand up in court.

Since Zelekha is a highly praised official and has won awards for his performance, it may be difficult to convince the court that his ousting is legitimate.

Lindenstrauss said Thursday that anyone who reveals government corruption will be protected by law and that this protection is an important step in curtailing corruption in the public sector. The comptroller's office said that Zelekha has yet to file a complaint and that if he does, it will be examined immediately.