Wanted: A Courageous Comptroller

In the latest report issued by the new state comptroller, there is not a word about the worthlessness of the Civil Administration in the territories in general.

If the new state comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, betrays his mission just as the outgoing comptroller did, then we might as well close this irrelevant institution. There is no need to go through all this ritual if it only serves to produce reports that are buried a day later and in any case avoid tackling the core issue. The reports serve to give the Israeli public sector an enlightened image but in reality, they only contribute to the spread of corruption and improper practices.

The report on the defense establishment, composed by outgoing Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg and published last week, demonstrates that these reports cause more harm than good. They only deal with the trees; and when the entire forest is tainted, criticism directed toward a few rotten trees gives the impression that the forest in general is healthy. In this, the comptroller joins another very prestigious body, the Supreme Court, which in most cases refrains from expressing its views on what takes place in the occupied territories and thus becomes a senior partner in the criminal actions carried out there.

Take, for example, the chapter in the latest report dealing with the Civil Administration. This body - which was supposed to look after the welfare and daily needs of the residents living under the Israeli occupation, but in practice harasses them - is only portrayed in a negative light in the report because of several "irregular incidents." The comptroller prefers to focus on two gas stations that senior officials in the Civil Administration's control unit established for themselves, the paving of an access road to the Givat Ze'ev settlement on private Palestinian land and an industrial plant built in one of the settlements, again on private Palestinian land.

There is not a word about the worthlessness of the Civil Administration in general, the severe shortage of water in the territories, the weak electricity system, the shameful state of health services, the suffocating checkpoints, the blatant discrimination between Palestinians and settlers in regard to the granting of building permits and the demolition of homes built without permits, the apartheid roads designated for the use of Jews only, the need to apply for approval for every move and so on.

Apparently, focusing attention on the gas station on the Bethlehem-Hebron road stirs less controversy - as if the Civil Administration would become a proper organization if only the gas station had been located elsewhere. But even if the Administration rectifies all of the problems the comptroller exposes, it would remain fundamentally corrupt, an organization that does not even try to fulfill its mission.

A similar picture arises from the chapter on the separation fence. The comptroller rails against the way the Rafael-produced "System A" is operated, against the process of procuring and deploying observation equipment and command centers, and even against "Observation System B."

But what about the tens of thousands of residents who were promised they would be able to pass through the gates of the fence and reach their fields and schools, yet every day wait in vain for hours in the blistering sun? What about the workers who have been cut off from their sources of livelihood? Even when the comptroller superficially touches upon the injustices the fence engenders, he does so in sanitized and barren language: "The necessary response has not been provided in terms of technological means and the professional personnel to employ them at the standards necessary for security needs and to preserve the `fabric of life' of the Palestinians."

"Fabric of life?" Nothing remains of it. But there are other matters bothering the comptroller, as we see in the chapter dealing with "Protecting the settlements in Judea and Samaria." "In most of the outposts in Judea and Samaria that are not statutorily approved, security components have not been established." But what about the establishment of these illegal outposts in the first place and the way the government perpetuates their existence? Does the fact that these questions are ignored stem from a desire to avoid controversy?

Israel does not need a comptroller who will publish the names of those responsible for the small failures, as Lindenstrauss has vowed to do. Rather, Israel needs a comptroller who will finally break the pattern forged by his predecessors of focusing on marginal phenomena and turning a blind eye to the underlying corruption. But this takes courage.