The Golem Turns on Its Creator

In the implicit competition over who is going to screw Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government fastest and hardest, there is no doubt that the frontrunner is the state comptroller, retired Judge Micha Lindenstrauss.

In the implicit competition over who is going to screw Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government fastest and hardest, there is no doubt that the frontrunner is the state comptroller, retired Judge Micha Lindenstrauss. While the Winograd Committee is probing deeply and thoroughly in order to understand how what happened happened and to clarify who was responsible for the conduct of the war, Lindenstrauss is operating like the March Hare in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." Like the historic and wild competition of yore between the two evening newspapers, it is Lindenstrauss who will grab the headlines from Winograd when he submits his interim report today (if the High Court of Justice does not decide otherwise) on the failure in defending the home front to the Knesset State Control Committee.

For his part, Winograd - and his colleagues - can eat his hat. Today in the media and on the weekend on all the television channels, Lindenstrauss will be the glittering star that has beat Winograd. The state comptroller's explanation as to why it is so urgent for him to submit his interim report today is that there is a near danger of the renewal of the war and hence immediate preparedness on the home front is essential. This is a strange argument in light of the assessment of Military Intelligence that a war is not expected this year. Objectively, there is no need for the state comptroller's haste, apart from his urge to steal the show from the Winograd Committee or to force it to line up with him. It must be taken into account that the Knesset State Control Committee is headed by National Union - National Religious Party MK Zevulun Orlev. Thus the state comptroller is handing the opposition a loaded pistol, which in the third act will put an end to Olmert's rule.

His predecessor, retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, said at the 2005 Sderot Conference that "a state comptroller doesn't need to look for scoops. He isn't in competition with journalists. He should behave with restraint prior to publication, while giving rights to the person under review." We have had strong state comptrollers in the past, whose wonderful work shone when the annual or periodic report was submitted with both the review and the reaction of the person or institution under review, as it should be.

Lindenstrauss was only a District Court judge, and his connection to the establishment, on the one hand and, on the other, the fear of appearing soft to the people and institutions under review led him to declare upon his appointment that "corruption must be rooted out with an iron hand." To this end he established a "corruption commando" in his office. Since then not a day has gone by without the publication or leak of the state comptroller's activities. A planned investigation, a probe that has been completed, a report that has been published, an application to the attorney general. In short, anything that can put Lindenstrauss in the headlines.

In fact, he is an arm of the Knesset; he has no means of enforcement apart from the Knesset State Control Committee. But he publishes teasers for investigations that he intends to carry out and thus has become a controversial state comptroller. The State Comptroller Law does not, for example, authorize him to summon government ministers to be investigated at his office during the course of reviews of government ministries. However, in his conduct he is trying to compete with the attorney general and the police. His summoning of Prime Minister Olmert to report to the State Comptroller's Office and face a squad of investigators there is not only unprecedented but also contrary to the State Comptroller Law. In cases of suspected crimes, even the police come to investigate the government minister (or the president) at his bureau.

Olmert asked the state comptroller to submit his questions in writing. It took 24 days for the state comptroller to formulate the questions that probe deeply into the issues with which the Winograd Committee is dealing: the preparedness of the reserve forces, the Israel Defense Forces emergency stores, the stocks available, the process for deciding to go to war and so on. To my astonishment, wrote the prime minister in a letter to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, I was given 12 days to reply to questions that deal with complex issues, to which answers would require examining many transcripts and documents from six years ago. And then Lindenstrauss informs the chairman of the Knesset State Control Committee that he is prepared and ready to submit the draft of the interim report (600 pages), without any of those under review having seen it.

Olmert's circles are charging that the state comptroller has already passed along to journalists the main points of the report that he himself has not yet seen. If this is correct, it is a sad day for proper administration in this country. The work of the state comptroller is to discover and correct flaws in government mechanisms, but not for purposes of beheading prime ministers.

The institution of the state comptroller has always operated under the banner of modesty. Lindenstrauss' pursuit of personal publicity is an example of a golem that has turned on its creator.