The Gift That Keeps on Giving

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman in Knesset, December 9, 2019.
Ohad Zwigenberg

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman had brought an evil wind into the institution he now heads. Under the banner of “constructive criticism,” Englman, who was promoted to his current position by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without any relevant experience in law or oversight, is neutering and censoring the comptroller’s reports and emptying them of meaning.

The publication of reports already signed by his predecessor has been postponed, and not by chance. Englman changed them unrecognizably, with all sharp criticism removed. The names of those under review have been deleted, along with citations of High Court of Justice rulings and quotations from documents or emails that the State Comptroller’s Office uncovered, as well as any other facts that might shed a critical light on the work of government ministers. The comptroller’s caressing touch made hundreds of changes to draft reports submitted to him, preventing the publication of factual data, in complete opposition to the opinions of professionals in the watchdog’s office (TheMarker, December 22).

Things reached such a point that professionals who prepared a report stating that the goal set for the budget deficit in 2018 was met using invalid methods, and included harsh criticism of some senior Finance Ministry officials – particularly Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and director general Shai Babad – informed Englman that they no longer stood behind it.

That did not stop Englman from announcing that the report would be published anyway. Englman’s entry into the office of state comptroller was accompanied by a secret meeting with the prime minister – an unprecedented event in the history of that office. Immediately thereafter, the permits committee announced that it would not continue in its work. This is the same committee that had previously prevented Netanyahu from financing his legal defense with funds from wealthy individuals and relatives. It was a sign of things to come: From that moment on, Englman stopped at nothing to neutralize the office.

The beneficiaries of Englman’s policies will be the people who should be the focus of his work. First of all there is Netanyahu, oversight of whom by the previous state comptroller, Joseph Shapira, led to evidence strengthening the corruption case known as Case 4000, for which he was indicted. The way to save the prime minister from police investigations leads through the undermining of the state comptroller’s work.

But Netanyahu is not the only beneficiary. Everyone under scrutiny will benefit, including senior officials and government ministers. The losers, as usual, will be the country and the public.

Englman empties the state comptroller’s work of meaning. He is methodically destroying, brick by brick, this important institution and could contribute to Israel drowning in a culture of corruption and degeneration.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.