Israel Resource Review 25th December, 2006


The State Comptroller is about to reveal a special report:: Olmert and His Close Associates' Jobs
Yoav Yitzhak
Bureau Chief and Investigative Journalist,

The complaint was filed in September 2004 by the Workers' Committee in the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism - The suspicion: Olmert and Director-General Dinur made forbidden political appointments and made use of personal connections - The Comptroller confirms: he will shortly issue a special report - Olmert and Dinur deny the claims

The State Comptroller, retired Justice Micha Lindenstrauss, is about to publish within a few weeks, in the format of a special report, his findings concerning a lengthy series of appointments made by Olmert and his people in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, for invalid political considerations or as a result of personal connections. The report also relates to the actions of the Director-General of the Ministry, Raanan Dinur, and of Shulah Zaken, as the executors of those appointments that were made in an invalid manner. After the publication of the report Attorney General Manny Mazuz will have to examine whether a criminal investigation should be opened. The invalid appointments include: the appointment of attorney Lilach Nehemiah, the spouse at the time of Abraham Hirschson (Olmert's loyalist) to the post of Deputy Director-General of the Small Business Authority. The State Comptroller confirmed in response that a special Comptroller's report concerning appointments in the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism will soon be issued. The Comptroller's office could not say whether the report will be published before the elections, as is required by the people's right to know before the elections, or only afterwards. Workers in the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism argue, especially in light of the Knesset elections, that the Comptroller must explain why this report is still unpublished. The examination was conducted by Dafnah Degani-Agmon and Menahem Gutreich, both senior employees in the State Comptroller's Office. It was initiated in the wake of a complaint filed by the Workers' Committee in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, in light of Olmert and his people bringing in individuals from outside the Ministry, for inappropriate reasons, and even improperly intervening in tenders, instead of advancing dedicated workers from within the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Goldberg Gave the Order Nfc has learned that the examination began in 2004, by order of the previous Comptroller, the retired Justice Eliezer Goldberg, after having concluded that, on the face of it, irregular appointments were conducted. The work of the examination actually was concluded several months ago. The current Comptroller, Lindenstrauss, was planning to publish the report against Olmert and his people as part of the annual report (the first half) which is scheduled for publication in May 2006. The draft of the report had already been given to the Prime Minister's office, for comments and/or responses. Due, however, to the gravity of the actions that came to light, and after additional revelations about Olmert's illegal actions in a string of affairs that we uncovered here, the Comptroller decided on the early publication, as a special report, of the chapter dealing with the appointments made by Olmert and his people. It was learned that the main items had already been submitted to Olmert for his response. Members of Olmert's office fear that the report might lead to a criminal investigation, as happened with the government minister Tzahi Hanegbi and MK Yisrael Katz.

The Workers' Committee: From the "Junta" Workshop The examination began in the wake of a complaint filed by the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism Workers' Committee, signed by Suzi Levi, Chairperson of the National Worker's Committee in the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism. It should be noted that not all the details of the complaint were proven in the examination. We will be able to learn and print the details of the Comptroller's findings only upon publication of the full report. The following is the complaint letter:

Re: Rejecting candidates in internal tenders in the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism

Hanegbi is not alone!!!

Both the Minister Ehud Olmert and the Director-General of his Ministry, Mr. Raanan Dinur, who carries out his orders, have friends who have to be taken care of. In the past two years we have witnessed increasing contempt for the dedicated and skilled workers of the Ministry, and the preference of those outside the Ministry who are close [to Olmert and Dinur], mainly for senior posts. We recently warned the Ministry management, the Civil Service Commissioner, and the Movement for Quality Government in Israel of this. Nonetheless, candidates were rejected in internal tenders, with the goal of going to external tenders and search committees, to choose those close [to Olmert and Dinur], but no one took action. The following are those who "were taken care of" (partial list).

- The Kaminka family: friends who advise Dinur in the Jerusalem Municipality in the organizational realm. As far as we know, this was not done in the Municipality. When Mr. Dinur came to the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism, they came together with him. Were their actions checked? And the monies that they received, and continue to receive, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of NIS?

- Mr. Aharon Domb: who is designated by the Director-General for the position of Director of the Investments Center, despite his lacking the relevant education. Domb's "activity" can be seen in the investigative report of Yedioth Ahronoth, but no one took action.

- Ms. Dorit Novak: a friend of Mr. Raanan Dinur from the time they were in the army, was brought from nowheres and was appointed, without a tender, to the position of Director of the Authority for Advancing Employment, but no one took action.

- Mr. Amiram Bukspan: a political crony; he was appointed Chairman of the Small Business Authority, without a tender, but no one took action.

- Mr. Shmuel Rosman: a political crony; he was appointed Chairman of the Small Business Authority, but no one took action.

- Adv. Lilach Nehemiah: a political crony; she was appointed Deputy Director-General of the Small Business Authority, without a tender, but no one took action.

- Mr. Shimi Shimon: a political crony, he was appointed Vice Director-General of the Employment Service, without a tender, but no one took action.

- The position of Assistant Director-General, Planning and Economics: the person filling the position is going abroad on an official task; the position is designated for an employee of the Ministry, which the Ministry administration does not deny. This preference hampers equal and fair opportunity for the other workers who regards themselves as suitable for the position, but no one took action.

- Mr. Amir Barkan: advisor to the Director-General; he was a candidate for Director of the Investments Center, but Mr. Domb's "accomplishments" were preferred.

- As compensation, the position of Director of the Financing Administration was designated for him. In order to clear the way for him, all ten internal candidates were rejected yesterday by the Tender Committee, in which the Director-General participated. Most had an academic Master's degree, are graduates of the attache course and other courses, and all have rich practical experience.

- The position of Director of the Development Areas Administration is in the search committee: we wonder who among the "special cronies" will receive this position, after the rejection of some 15 candidates in the internal tender, from among the most worthy and best in the Ministry, but no one took action. The legality of this process must be examined. Additionally, the appointments and contractual arrangements with external advisors, including a number of former Director-Generals, also must be examined. A recent examination revealed that the annual cost of these advisors is about NIS 50,000,000, when professional and suitable manpower is to be found within our Ministry. All of the above is from the workshop of our "junta," and the way is open for more.

The response of the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism that was given to the State Comptroller: On September 5, 2004, a few days after the complaint was submitted, the Director-General of the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism, Raanan Dinur, gave over his response (the response of Minister Olmert). Here it is, verbatim:

Re: Rejecting candidates in internal tenders in the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism

I received a copy of the Workers' Committee letter to you (and to the Movement for Quality Government), and I wish to relate to what is claimed in it, and to add factual information. I emphasize that there is no factual basis to what is claimed by the Workers' Committee. Of all the tenders for senior positions (a total of 37) that were issued from the beginning of MK Olmert's term in office as Minister of Industry, Trade, and Tourism, good and qualified individuals were chosen for these positions, most of them from among Ministry workers (33), and a minority from other government ministries (4). For your convenience, attached is a detailed list of appointments in the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism, including those mentioned in this letter, divided into categories as follows:

1. candidates chosen in internal tenders.

2. appointments from within other government ministries.

3. external advisors.

4. appointments in units connected to the Ministry. 5. search committees and internal tenders in the process. The Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism management totally rejects the claims raised in the Workers' Committee letter, and its contents and style. The Workers' Committee undoubtedly viewed the "Hanegbi affair" as a opportunity to raise claims concerning appointments, even if those claims bear no relation to the facts.

MK Polishook: To Publish the Report in the Next Few Days Chairperson of the Knesset State Control Committee and Coordinator of the Headquarters of the Battle against Corruption of Hetz (the Secular Faction) MK Meli Polishook, in response to Nfc's scoop: "I ask of the State Comptroller to make a maximal effort to publish the full report in the next few days, even before the election. The Israeli public must know just for whom it is voting."

[My comment (Y. Y.): The State Comptroller examined the complaint, as well as the response. The best examiners in the State Comptroller's Office conducted a comprehensive examination that took more than a year. In light of the gravity of the findings, the Comptroller recently decided to issue a special report. Even if some of the claims of the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism Workers' Committee are proven to be unfounded, the fact that the Comptroller saw fit to issue a special report attests to the severity of the new affair revealed here.]

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UJA-Fed. May Fund Gush Katif Evacuees
With government help seen lacking, charity to evaluate need.
Gary Rosenblatt - Editor And Publisher The Jewish Week (12/22/2006)

[Concerning this article which appeared in the Jewish Week on December 22nd, 2006, entitled "UJA-Fed. May Fund Gush Katif Evacuees", the question remains: Why did the UJC ignore the comprehensive report that it received at the General Assembly of Jewish Federations concerning the situation of the families evacuated from Gush Katif, which was commissioned by the Center for Near East Policy Research and which appears at: Did that policy have something to do with the fact that Israeli Cabinet Minister Yitzhak Hertzog and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's advisor Dov Weisglass provided official reports to the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in August, 2005 that the evacuees left their homes with assurances of $400,00 in compensation and the promise of homes waiting for them? The question of whether Jewish charitable organizations should take the word of Israeli government officials is now up for discussion - db]

Acknowledging that a number of families evacuated from Gush Katif in the summer of 2005 may be in need of economic assistance, the leadership of UJA-Federation of New York and the United Jewish Communities (UJC) have committed to evaluating the situation first-hand.

John Ruskay, the executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation, plans to visit some of the evacuee communities in Israel in February to help decide if assistance is required.

"If we determine that families are in need of food, shelter, health care and other basics, we will respond," he told The Jewish Week.

The decision comes two months after UJA-Federation announced that it was allocating $9.3 million to help rebuild Kiryat Shemona, one of the communities in northern Israel hit hardest in the war with Hezbollah this summer.

A national Israel Emergency Campaign operated by UJC, the umbrella organization of the North American Jewish federations, has raised more than $350 million for communities that suffered from the war, mostly in the north. More than $44 million for that effort was raised by UJA-Federation.

The contrast between the swift and generous response of aid for those who suffered from the Hezbollah war and the lack of major American Jewish funding for the approximately 8,500 Jews uprooted from their homes as part of the Gaza disengagement the summer before was seen by many Gush Katif evacuees as a political statement.

In the last year the UJC has provided about $1 million in support for those evacuees, with $400,000 coming from funds from a previous emergency campaign, another $400,000 from the Jewish federation in Chicago, and the balance from other smaller federations.

Doron Krakow, a UJC professional who heads the Israel and overseas divisions, will lead a study group to Israel in early January that will meet with leaders of the former Gush Katif communities.

"This is a population that has extraordinary needs not paid attention to, and we plan to assess the circumstances and provide a productive response," he said, with the goal of letting federations know about opportunities for providing assistance.

He noted that the war with Hezbollah this summer "triggered new attention and created an opportunity to look at some unfinished business."

But Krakow said that "however difficult the circumstances are" for the Gush Katif evacuees, "they are hard to compare" with the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who as a result of the war this summer "were in existential danger.

"Wars," he said, "elicit extremely strong emotional and philanthropic responses from the Jewish community." The situation involving the Gush Katif evacuees was far more complex, he said, and not as well known to most American Jews.

UJA-Federation's Ruskay asserted that the local charity views the Gush Katif evacuees issue as one of humanitarian needs, not politics. He said he had been under the assumption that the government of Israel had met its commitment to relocate and provide housing and funding for families removed from their homes, some of them by force, as part of the disengagement.

But he said that "for reasons that are unclear," it appears that is not the case.

Many of the evacuees say the government has neglected them and stalled in its promise to compensate them for lost homes and businesses because of their opposition to the disengagement. Leaders of the Gush Katif community say the government is a year behind in building permanent homes for them, and that their unemployment rate is 50 percent, with former farmers particularly affected.

Government officials have insisted that the problem is bureaucratic, not political, and that determining fair allocations for the families has been more complicated than imagined.

After living in hotel rooms for months, most of the evacuees are now in mobile home communities in the south, trying to adjust to smaller living spaces and the economic and psychological hardships of being displaced.

Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld of the Young Israel of Kew Garden Hills in Queens organized a meeting with Ruskay and some of UJA-Federation's top professionals at the charity's headquarters on December 11 to discuss the continuing plight of the Gush Katif families.

Much of the advocacy on behalf of the families - before, during and after the disengagement - has come from the Orthodox community, many of whose members opposed the decision by the Sharon government to evacuate Gaza.

Rabbi Schonfeld, who was joined by seven other local Orthodox rabbis at the meeting, said he told the UJA-Federation officials "they should do what they do best - raise money to help Jews. They do it for Jews in the north in Israel, and for Jews in countries all over the world, so why not for the Jews from Gush Katif?"

Rabbi Schonfeld said that some Orthodox rabbis in Queens no longer promote the UJA-Federation annual campaign in their congregations, choosing instead to raise funds for the Jews who were forced out of Gush Katif.

"We wanted UJA-Federation to acknowledge it has a responsibility to help Jews," Rabbi Schonfeld said. He characterized the meeting as "very good," but added: "We agreed this is just the beginning."

Rabbi Hershel Billet of the Young Israel of Woodmere, who also attended, said he was pleased that the UJA-Federation officials reacted positively to the group's request that the situation be explored, with an eye toward providing financial assistance. "They were open to the idea that if people needed help, they would respond," he said.

Rabbi Billet, who spent much of his sabbatical from his synagogue last year in Israel, said he had met extensively with Gush Katif families who were having a difficult time. He said he believed the government "didn't know what it was getting into" when it promised to provide social service needs for those evacuated, and that, whatever the reason, "it's clear the government has not been able to meet its commitment."

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