"No great honour being an Israeli"


By: Emile Tyyep

Ten years ago, Israel was listed 10th in an honesty league compiled by Transparency International, an anti-corruption group based in Berlin.
But it has now fallen to 34th place.
Israel’s image is at an all-time low, and its political leadership is under renewed pressure.
Last week witnessed the resignation of the Israeli Defence Force chief who stepped down over failure in Lebanon war, and a few days ago, the Israeli President Moshe Katsav came out fighting to clear his name after four women former staff members, accused him of rape and abuse of power. But that’s not all.
Israel’s Defence Minister, Amir Peretz, is facing mounting calls for his resignation after Lieutenant General Dan Halutz accepted responsibility for mishandling Israel’s 34-day war. Also the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is facing allegations over the sale of Leumi bank in 2005 and earlier this month, the head of the Israeli Tax Authority, a top aide to Mr Olmert, and several others were arrested as part of a police probe into possible bribery.
Katsav tried in vain to defend himself, claiming that he was the victim of a witch-hunt, but he managed to only persuade a parliamentary committee to grant him a temporary leave of absence, clearing the way for speaker of Parliament, Dalia Itzik, who becomes the pro-tem president and Israel’s first female head of state.
“I am very worried about what I see,” says Daniel Kayros, an attorney with the advocacy group Movement for Quality Governance in Israel. “The corruption we are facing now is terrible. It’s almost at an epidemic level.”
“Often the level of accountability between a politician and his people that voted him in is not there,” says Mr Kayros. “A politician can easily forget whose interests he is representing.”
Commenting on the series of scandals that hit Israel recently and show no sign of abating, an editorial on YnetNews bluntly said “to those planning to attend the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at the prestigious Swiss ski resort of Davos, stay away if you haven’t yet boarded the plane. Please don’t come, because it’s no great honor being an Israeli this year at Davos. In fact, it’s humiliating.”
Israel now doesn’t stand for the high tech superpower or even the occupation power that’s brutalizing the population of the lands it annexed illegally, but a declining and dysfunctional country, the editorial said.
“A dark shadow has fallen on Israel’s image worldwide. Until we remove it, these honorable people will hesitate to shake our hands, identify with us and invest in Israel. They are already hesitating.”
It seems that corruption, sex, and misconduct scandals in general have become part of the fabric of Israeli political system.
They had also been of the fabric of the Israeli political history.
Among other factors that led to the defeat of Labour Party in 1977 elections, after almost 30 years in power, was the feeling among the population that it was corrupt.
The party’s leader, Yitzhak Rabin, was forced to resign in the same year after it emerged that his wife held an illegal bank account.
Also Israeli prime ministers such as Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, and Ariel Sharon have faced investigations, although none of them were ever indicted.
Today Israel’s global image is probably more negative than it has been at any other time since its creation, which was itself surrounded by a huge wave of criticism.


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