Olmert Aides: Comptroller Using Home Front Report to Besmirch PM

Opposition parties file motions of no confidence in government

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is using his report on the preparedness of the home front in a personal campaign against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister's Bureau said in a statement yesterday.

"As usual, Lindenstrauss is seeking to hurt people instead of concentrating on the job the Knesset has given him," the statement said, adding that Lindenstrauss was "misusing the task he has been set."

Olmert's bureau also released a 51-page document containing detailed responses to the claims raised in the report. The bureau said the comptroller's "poisoned arrows" had been directed at a cabinet in office for only a few months.

The document noted that the cabinet had discussed the home front in three of its meetings. This came in response to the comptroller's claim that the danger to the home front was not high enough on the cabinet members' minds when they decided to go to war, and that during the war the cabinet did not deal with the home front.

In any case, four months after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called for Olmert to resign once the interim Winograd report was released, she changed course yesterday. "I think we should stick together as part of the correction of the failures that are presented in the report," Livni said during a press conference with visiting EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Over the past few days officers on the General Staff have criticized aspects of the comptroller's report. In particular they said GOC Home Front Command Yitzhak Gershon had been done an injustice. They said the comptroller has placed too much blame on the Home Front Command and that the situation was a result of years of unsolved problems and a lack of resources.

The Israel Defense Forces spokesman's office said "the Home Front Command operated in a number of areas involving the civilian population that are not clearly in its area of responsibility," and called for the establishment of a single body to deal with the home front.

Senior officers told Haaretz they rejected accusations that Gershon had not followed the instructions of former defense minister Amir Peretz for a wider call-up of Home Front Command reservists. They said the minister's statements had been made at an assessment meeting and were not formulated as a binding order.

Gershon's attorney, Eldad Yaniv, said that if another war was forced on Israel, the preparedness of the home front would be "different." The IDF spokesman said the army had begun to correct the shortcomings with increased training for the Home Front Command, an improved siren system, the preparation of thousands of shelters for long-term habitation, and better protection for hazardous materials.

Likud, Meretz and the National Union-National Religious Party submitted no-confidence proposals yesterday following the comptroller's report.

MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee's subcommittee on home-front preparedness, said the report revealed that the government and defense establishment had put thousands of citizens at risk by their treatment of hazardous materials in the Haifa Bay area.

MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) urged Olmert to resign. She called Olmert a "reckless prime minister who gambled not just with IDF soldiers' lives, but also with the lives of the residents of the North."

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said Olmert was apparently the only person in Israel who did not realize the extent of his failure.