Aviation Safety Chief Resigns

The former commander of the Israel Airforce, Amos Lapidot, resigned from the chair of the Public Air Safety Committee in a fury yesterday. "I am not willing to serve as a fig leaf covering failures," the former major general wrote in his letter of resignation to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz.

Lapidot pointed an accusatory finger at the ministry and its chiefs, sharply criticizing incompetence relating to flight safety measures.

The former safety czar's main criticism concerns the failure to implement Public Air Safety Committee recommendations for bolstering the Israel Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA). Lapidot said he has been warning of the problems for nearly a year, and yet no practical steps have been taken.

Lapidot also attached the management culture prevailing at the Transportation Ministry, placing the responsibility on Director General Gideon Siterman; the ministry's legal counsel, Mali Siton; and its accountant. He blamed them for preventing the ICAA from becoming an independent entity with supervisory and enforcement capabilities. "The situation is beyond the pale. They have accomplished nothing - not recommendations, not personal relations, no decisions are implemented. It could called a subculture," Lapidot said, after submitting his resignation.

Lapidot, who also heads the joint transportation and defense ministries' task force for coordination of civil and military aviation in Israel's limited air space, added that the situation is even worse in light of the willingness on the part of the Air Force, the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Police to promote the issue.

"The process of deterioration in the Transportation Ministry has gone on for decades, but this is no reason not to repair the situation. To Mofaz's credit, it must be said, he established the committee but instead of maintaining its momentum, its work is being hindered. I cannot be a party to this. I am like a lone voice in the desert," Lapidot said.

In response to Lapidot's criticism, sources in the ministry said that some of Lapidot's recommendations are related to the activities of other government offices such as the justice and finance ministries. "The Transportation Ministry has acted according to its abilities," the source said.

Director General Gideon Siterman expressed regret over Lapidot's resignation. "There has been progress on a number of issues over the past year, although not at the pace that Lapidot had wished. There has been dramatic progress on the issue."