Return of the comptroller
Hebrew media review

Return of the comptroller

The annual report comes out and Yosef Shapira has everything from flights to foreigners in his sights

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira (Uri Lenz/Flash90)
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Seems like everybody’s out for somebody today, as the main headlines are all about various individuals going for the jugular. The ammo of choice in the papers on Thursday: the findings of the state comptroller’s report.

In Yedioth Ahronoth, the state comptroller takes aim at excessive travel and travel costs of ministers and deputy ministers in the past decade. According to the paper, the government watchdog published a report going after ministers for traveling abroad on someone else’s dime, bringing their spouse along on official trips and not reporting it, granting automatic approval for trips without oversight, “and, above all, outrageous waste of public funds.”

According to the report, between 2003 and 2011 the 86 ministers and deputy ministers took 1,184 trips abroad — an average of over 13 per person. Around one in five of those were funded by private institutions, “raising concern about interests and receiving favors,” the paper writes.

The state comptroller’s report recommends that for official and important state business, only the government should pay for a minister’s flight, “in order to protect the moral purity, the cleanliness of the hands and public ethics, and to prevent misconception of the obligations to the funding parties,” the paper writes.

But don’t worry too much: if the current state of mathematics education in the country remains as is, such big numbers won’t mean much to the public. The ever-vigilant state comptroller also published a report that criticized the state of mathematics instruction and learning in Israel, saying it hadn’t been updated in 20 years and was severely deficient.

In Israel Hayom, Shula Zaken goes after her former boss, recently sentenced former prime minister Ehud Olmert. The paper reports that Zaken, Olmert’s long-time aide, will stand before the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday, “recant and back it up with hard evidence” — transcripts of audio tapes of conversations between herself and Olmert which Zaken’s lawyer has called “explosive.”

Zaken is throwing her boss under the bus as part of a plea deal which would have her serve only 11 months in prison. Judge David Rozen, who sentenced Olmert earlier this week, will assess the plea bargain, and accept or reject it.

From the state comptroller’s report, the paper also takes away the finding that the majority of residents in south Tel Aviv are foreigners — 61 percent, in fact, “a situation which causes many difficulties in those neighborhoods and creates a feeling of personal insecurity for the Israeli residents.” The report notes that as of mid-2013 there were roughly 230,000 foreigners living in Israel, 54,000 of whom were Eritrean and Sudanese.

Haaretz adopts a completely different angle on the same findings by the state comptroller, writing that the report called on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to reassess his stance on asylum seekers in Israel, noting that it was unacceptable that Israel violates national and international law in that respect. The paper reports that State Comptroller Yosef Shapira severely criticized Israel’s treatment of Eritrean and Sudanese migrants, saying the state does not provide for the basic needs of those residing in the country for a long period of time. Moreover, the state lacks a general plan for dealing with the issue of African asylum seekers, it says.

Those criticisms are notably absent from Israel Hayom’s coverage of the issue.

The left-wing paper’s main story, however, is about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interest in taking “alternative diplomatic steps” vis-á-vis the Palestinians in light of the  breakdown in negotiations last month. Last week, Netanyahu told the cabinet he was looking for ideas, but didn’t specify what kinds of steps, the paper notes.

Haaretz quotes Netanyahu telling Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun during his stay in the country that “I don’t think the status quo is something desirable and I am not interested in it.”

“I don’t want a binational state,” Netanyahu said.

Surprisingly, none of the papers makes a big deal out of the evacuation of an illegal West Bank settlement on Wednesday. IDF soldiers and police officers demolished eight buildings in the Ma’ale Rehavam outpost south of Jerusalem and arrested some settlers who resisted. But the story only gets a few inches of text in Yedioth Ahronoth on Page 12 and barely as much in Israel Hayom on Page 9. Haaretz sticks the story back on Page 10. On any other day, it may have been front page news.

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