The Professors Were Confused

As one who had no part whatsoever in selecting the state comptroller, I am taking this time to express my opinion.

Five oh-so-eminently respectable professors published a large announcement on the front page of Friday's Hebrew Haaretz: Shlomo Avineri, Yoav Dotan, Yaffa Zilbershats, Arye (Arik) Carom and Amnon Rubinstein. "Judge Micha Lindenstrauss is damaging the governing procedures of the state," the headline blared out its warning.

I know a few of the undersigned professors very well, and among them are personal friends. They are individuals of great wisdom who are beyond all possible suspicion; none has ever been brought into a police state, questioned under caution or not under caution or has even been acquitted for lack of evidence. Woe to them, there is not even a single good character certificate from the police to share among them.

I would dearly love to be able to attribute evil intentions to them. I would dearly love to be able to present them as servants of the government. To my great frustration, neither is the case. Their intentions are good but their announcement is unwelcome. The worst they could be accused of is naivete and disconnectedness: They do not really know where it is they are living.

Judge Lindenstrauss himself would be surprised to know that I did not vote for him in the Knesset despite our years-long acquaintance. I abstained. I disapproved of the trick played by the Knesset speaker at the time, who presented the plenum with a single candidacy accompli. As one who had no part whatsoever in selecting the state comptroller, I am taking this time to express my opinion.

This is not to say that Lindenstrauss has made no mistakes; more than once he played into the hands of his rivals and those who wish him harm, and he continues both to play and be played with. Some weeks ago I published on these pages a criticism of the comptroller, who all too often rushes out with a roar that retreats with a whimper. Still, one must neither be confusing nor allow oneself to be confused: It is not the comptroller who threatens our fragile democracy; it is not the comptroller who is destroying the country and everything decent in it. Rather, it is those who slander anyone in an attempt to save their own skins.

And that brings us to the principle sin of Friday's odd advertisement: It presented the state comptroller as Public Enemy Number One, and that is utterly and completely untrue. It is not every day that five professors see it as their personal duty to publish a joint call that places all of their significant weight on one side of the scales, as if there were not another, filthy side. It is not every morning that Israel Prize laureates awaken to warn publicly against those who follow in the footsteps of Corruption, Inc. and do not warn against those who trample the procedures of civil society with a haughty, twisted foot.

I searched for, and did not find, in that open letter a single word of concern about the corrupt leadership, traversing its ways. These learned individuals are mainly concerned about "the conduct of the elected prime minister," lest it be "impeded and paralyzed." They are concerned about "governing procedures of the state," at a time when 80 percent of the public says it is the corruption of the heads of state that is keeping them from being proud of their country, according to a survey conducted in preparation for the Sderot Conference this week.

And what are these "governing procedures" in comparison to governing values and the trust the government must inspire in its citizens but which only continues to sink? Without trust there is neither government nor procedures. Fewer than 20 percent of Israelis trust the prime minister - an unprecedented low - and that is not the fault of Lindenstrauss, but rather of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose "conduct" in the Lebanon war and afterward apparently did not impress the public.

I have bad news for the five professors: Even today you will see that Israel continues to make its way down the world corruption index. Authorized international institutes do not accept the practice of appointing associates, including criminals, to small and large business authorities, and they are giving us low grades. What do you say, professors, perhaps this calls for another urgent open letter, signed by you?

To whom do the undersigned address their message, with regrets for them and for us? To the Knesset, since the professors believe that their and our salvation will come from there. The Knesset, as everyone knows, is completely free of extraneous interests and considers every matter on the basis of its own merits alone. The Knesset, as everyone knows, is all sweetness and light, without a single rotten apple threatening to spoil the entire parliamentary barrel.

Let us not forget the unfortunate timing: One must also know when to publish what. One is not required to join the lawless gangs plotting to destroy the ground under the comptroller's feet, as they have already done to the "gangs of the rule of law" in Jerusalem. All investigatory, judicial and enforcement authorities are now under a coordinated, offensive attack, and it is a pity for good people to unknowingly aid them.

"The comptroller is not and cannot be the first in the struggle against corruption," the unwanted and incomprehensible ad says. What do you care, lady and gentlemen, if he is first? I don't care whether "all the authorities" will be first in this war. The trouble is that nearly all of them are last.