No basis for PM resignation demands, justice minister says
In special interview with Ynet, Daniel Friedmann says both Winograd report and investigations against prime minister will not obligate Olmert to resign, criticizes state comptroller for dealing with criminal issues he is unauthorized to deal with
According to Friedmann, there is an unbearable lightness in the thought that a public figure could be carelessly impeached. In a special interview with Ynet, the justice minister also slammed the state comptroller's intentional "deviation" into the criminal field.
Mr Justice Minister, don't you feel uncomfortable following all the investigations held against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert? Don’t you think that due to the large number of suspicions, for example in the state comptroller's recent report, he should suspend himself or resign?
"As a citizen, I feel uncomfortable over the investigations. The question is how content-related these investigations are, how significant they are, and one must understand the other side of the story: The prime minister was elected by the public in democratic elections. And it is not so simple for an administrative body, which was not elected in democratic elections, to create a situation in which the prime minister is required to resign.
"Therefore, it should be obvious that only issues which are truly severe justify such an appeal to the prime minister, and this thing is very, very extreme. At this stage, I have not heard such a thing and have not heard that there is someone who claims in the investigations or to the attorney general that there is a basis for such a demand."
We have recently been witnessing a war in the media between the prime minister and State Comptroller Lindenstrauss following his severe report. How do you view things?
"I do not wish to refer to the content of the issue, but one must remember that it is basically not the state comptroller's job to deal with criminal investigations or with investigations or with criminal proceedings. It's simply not his business.
"It's obvious that if during his work he chances upon a suspicion, he must hand it over to the attorney general, but not beyond that. It's not his job to express his opinion on criminal issues. It's not his job to probe criminal issues, and each authority should maintain its position and role."
Officials at the Prime Minister's Office say that the comptroller is operating out of his desire for publicity and high ratings.
"I don’t know the reasons for his conduct. All I know is what his job is, and that it does not include investigation criminal suspicions or criminal offenses. This is not his job, these are not the means at his disposal – it's unbeneficial and unnecessary."
What is he supposed to do when he received severe information about the prime minister's activities?
"If he receives such information, he must immediately hand it over to the attorney general."
Let's turn to another issue, which is also problematic for the prime minister: The Winograd Commission's interim report will be published on Monday. From a legal point of view, can a severe report by the committee obligate the prime minister to resign?
"To the best of my knowledge – no."
Is there any wording which could appear in this report and obligate Prime Minister Olmert to resign?
"I do not deal with speculations on the report's content. It's clear that you will have to read the report and see what is written in it."
The Winograd Commission has been harshly criticized more than once for not being state commission of inquiry with larger authorities. So why is it an important committee?
"The main importance lies in revealing failures or procedures which took place in the past and which need fixing, and to help the army and the government fix what needs fixing."