Olmert, IDF Reject Watchdog's Findings on Home Front During War

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss will deliver a scathing report today on the state of the home front and its functioning during the Second Lebanon War.

The report, covering some 600 pages, is the longest the State Comptroller's Office has ever published, and is also expected to be the harshest. Unusually, it will name names in discussing the performance of several current and former senior officials: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former defense minister Amir Peretz, former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz and commander of the IDF Home Front Command Yitzhak Gershon.

Both the Prime Minister's Office and the IDF are preparing, separately, to wage a media war against Lindenstrauss' conclusions. Individuals from both places have harshly criticized in recent days the comptroller's motives, findings and recommendations, as well as the tone of his report, .

After Lindenstrauss completed his first draft in March, it was circulated to all the agencies concerned, and attorneys for the relevant bodies apparently succeeded in persuading him to drop several accusations against Gershon and the Home Front Command from the final version. Nevertheless, people involved in these efforts told Haaretz, the final report is still extremely severe, and in some cases, even more severe than the draft.

Gershon, who considered resigning at several points over the last year due to the harsh public criticism of the home front's preparedness during the war, is currently planning to stay, after new Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi met with him this week and asked him to do so.

Ashkenazi would like to appoint him to another General Staff position in a few months - possibly the army's attache in Washington, to replace Dan Harel, who is slated to become the next deputy chief of staff.

The comptroller's report will cover a broad range of topics, including the prime, defense and public security ministries, the IDF, the police, the firefighting and rescue services, the health and welfare systems, the post office, local governments and voluntary organizations.

Lindenstrauss, who attributes immense importance to the subject, began his review immediately after the war ended last August. Some 50 employees of the Comptroller's Office were involved in preparing the report, which will be presented first to the Knesset and then made available to the public.

But Knesset members said that however harsh the report is, it will only be a prelude to the Winograd Committee's final report, which is due out after the Jewish holidays this fall. The Winograd panel, set up to investigate all aspects of the war, has already said that its final report will include a section on the home front.

In March 2007, the comptroller sought to present his interim conclusions to the Knesset State Control Committee, so that work could begin promptly on fixing the problems he found.

However, Gershon petitioned the High Court of Justice against this move, arguing that it was unfair to present any findings until those who were criticized in the report were given a chance to respond. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz backed Gershon, even saying that he would refuse to represent Lindenstrauss in court, and Lindenstrauss eventually agreed to wait until the final report was ready.

However, he told the State Control Committee that his criticisms would be "very pointed and liable to anger many."

He also lashed out at Olmert during that meeting, saying he had difficulty obtaining the information he needed from the Prime Minister's Office, such as the minutes of cabinet meetings.

While he requested the material on August 22, 2006, he said, he finally received it only in two batches on October 25 and November 6, which significantly delayed his audit. "Such norms are unacceptable to us," he declared.

In response, Olmert demanded that Mazuz open a criminal investigation against Lindenstrauss for unauthorized leaks to the press, false statements and other offenses, but Mazuz refused.

Olmert and Lindenstrauss have had an extremely strained relationship for the past year, due to several investigations that the comptroller has conducted into alleged corruption on Olmert's part.

In some of those cases, Lindenstrauss recommended that Mazuz open a criminal probe.