ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Corruption 21.1.04

Corruption

21 January 2004

By Yisrael Ne'eman

Crime is infiltrating the halls of power in Israel, more than anyone previously thought. Not only are several parliamentarians under investigation for financial irregularities and double voting in the Knesset but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is suspected of having taken bribes by businessman and Likud financial powerhouse David Appel. Already last year Sharon’s sons Omri and Gilad faced police investigation for their part in obtaining illegal funding for their father’s 1999 campaign for the Likud party leadership.

In the history of the Zionist movement the word “corruption” usually denoted an ideological betrayal, or at times, an illegal decision making process. By the 1977 elections and the twilight of Labor Party rule, corruption, including bribes, kickbacks and influence peddling were endemic. The opposition right wing Likud led by Menachem Begin, won the elections handily, ending 29 years of Labor coalition rule.

There was one bright spot however, then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin refused to run for re-election upon discovery that a jointly held bank account with his wife, Leah, was illegal. The American account remained from his days as ambassador to Washington and violated currency regulations once the couple moved back to Israel. Leah was convicted since she operated the account while Rabin, himself, was in the clear. Shimon Peres ran for PM and lost.

Today, although Laborites are still being investigated for illegal campaign funding for Ehud Barak in 1999, the focus of corruption has shifted to the Likud. There are the usual accusations of bribery, but much worse are the suspicions that organized crime has infiltrated the Likud central committee. One member, Musa Alperon is a member of a well-known Mafia family. The committee of several thousand is brash in their demands for government jobs, threatening Likud officials that they will not be re-elected if they do not receive their share of the spoils. Furthermore the Likud MKs defend each other whenever there is a demand to strip a party colleague of his immunity for wrongdoings, and allow him to be tried.

Dismal as this all sounds, it will be much worse should an indictment be handed down against Sharon, which seems reasonable since Appel is accused of giving him a bribe.

Unfortunately, not only is the gap between rich and poor growing, but the national leadership does not appear to be in touch with the average person. Wealth and politics mix, leaving the citizenry behind.

After the Hasmonian revolt (the Maccabees) over 2000 years ago, the revolutionary leadership stayed close to the people, showing respect and humility. Hasmonian rule lasted 79 years and when Judea was overrun by Rome, few mourned the passing of the corrupt, self-interested third generation, even if independence was the preferred route. Attempts at reform by Queen Shlomtzion were washed under by the overwhelming self-interest of the priestly Sadducees and the royal family.

Those in power should take note. History does not have to repeat itself, but it can.