PM Slams Comptroller, Alleging 'Falsehoods' and Leaks

In a sharply worded letter, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday accused State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss of falsehoods, intentional leaks to the press and violating the law.

Addressing the Knesset leadership in his letter, Olmert called on the Knesset State Control Committee not to allow Lindenstrauss to present the main findings of his interim report on government conduct concerning the Home Front during the Lebanon war last summer before the individuals named have the opportunity to respond to the comptroller's claims.

Earlier, the commander of the Home Front, Major General Gershon Yitzhak, threatened to petition the High Court of Justice if the meeting of the State Control Committee is not postponed. Yitzhak is liable to be one of the individuals most hurt by the comptroller's report.

In response to Yitzhak's complaint, the Knesset legal adviser, Nurit Elstein, called on the chairman of the State Control Committee, MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) not to hold a meeting of the committee tomorrow to deliberate the findings. However, Orlev refuses to heed her call and said he will proceed with the meeting.

In his letter to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and MK Orlev, Olmert writes: "For many months now I have shown restraint in face of repeated leaks emerging from the State Comptroller's Office, headed by Mr. Lindenstrauss. Many issues that are being examined by the Comptroller's Office are being systematically leaked... to the press, who have admitted this publicly. In this case, too, the comptroller, or someone on his behalf, has exposed the main points of his report to reporters, even before the report was made available to government bodies."

"Unfortunately," Olmert writes, "in his conduct on the matter of the report regarding the preparations for the Home Front, comptroller Lindenstrauss has reached a new level of cynicism, blatantly violating rules and undermining fundamentals of oversight, and is acting contrary to what is customary and acceptable in the State of Israel since the day it was established."

Olmert details in his letter the unfolding of his contacts with the state comptroller regarding the report on the home front. Lindenstrauss, he said, made "unprecedented demands" in asking the PM to appear before him and his team of investigators at the State Comptroller's Office.

Olmert also charged Lindenstrauss with delaying a list of questions for which answers were to be included in the overall probe and allowing insufficient time for him and his staff to respond.

"I cannot but feel that the comptroller's mind has been made up in advance, even before he had pored over the details and examined them seriously," Olmert wrote.

In response, Lindenstrauss accused the prime minister of "continuing in his attempts to divert public opinion from his duty to offer precise and clear answers to the many questions directed at him for many months now regarding the way the war in the North was conducted... ."

The 67-page report has caused considerable anxiety among government and army officials and those who have seen it say it's extremely harsh and critical of the defense establishment, the local authorities, relevant ministries and their overall conduct in recent years.

Knesset legal counsel Elstein was contacted by the Military Advocate General's Office on behalf of Major General Yitzhak, and concluded that the individuals being criticized in the comptroller's report "have not received to date a copy or a draft of the report and they have not been given the opportunity to respond to its content."

Elstein wrote that the publication of the report under the current circumstances "harms the basic right" of the individuals involved. She called on the State Control Committee to postpone its meeting and not review the report.

However, MK Orlev, who chairs the committee rejected this call saying that "we [parliamentarians] are answerable to the voters, and not to the legal adviser. I do not know under what authority the legal adviser orders the chairman of the committee not to hold a meeting."