PM Ignores Knesset Panel Summons to Discuss Comptroller Report

Olmert says he will attend July 2 panel meeting to discuss suspicions against him for actions while trade minister.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert failed to turn up for a Knesset State Control Committee meeting Monday, convened in order to discuss suspicions against him for activities during his tenure as trade and industry minister.

The State Comptroller's report, released in April, claimed there were irregularities at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry investment center during Olmert's stint as minister. The comptroller also recommended a police investigation into the claims.

The prime minister said Monday that he is willing to discuss the matter at the committee's next scheduled meeting on July 2.

Committee chairman Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) threatened Sunday to subpoena Olmert if he did not turn up for Monday's meeting, which had been coordinated with him. Orlev did not in fact issue a subpoena when Olmert failed to come to the discussion, but warned that if the prime minister fails to attend the July 2 discussion as well, the Knesset State Control Committee will unanimously approve issuing a subpoena.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who addressed the Movement for Quality Government in Israel on Monday afternoon, said "anyone whose hands are clean, shouldn't be concerned about investigations of their purity."

Livni expressed her support of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, in the exchange of criticism between him and the prime minister. "When you criticize the one appointed to criticize, you are covering up your own flaws rather than repairing them," Livni said of Olmert.

"We must substantiate a system of inspection and control in all departments, including the political system," she added. "Transparency is not an obstacle; it only serves to bolster the public's trust in the government," she said.

"We must understand that the enforcement of the law is in our common best interest," Livni continued, "Finding and denouncing those who stray doesn't weaken the institution or body to which they belong, it only strengthens the 'house cleaning.'"

Olmert skipped the Knesset State Control Committee's meeting a month ago, even though he himself had called the meeting in order to demand that the State Comptroller investigate the alleged abuse of power the prime minister had been accused of.

In October 2006, Olmert also failed to show up at the committee's session on the comptroller's report regarding political appointments made by Olmert while he was Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor. At the time, Olmert said that he had an urgent security meeting.