By Shimon Z. Klein

How can we believe our leaders when so many are involved in activities of questionable legality? The accusations against some of the leaders range from rape and sexual harassment as in the case of the “Honorable” (or Dishonorable) President Moshe Katzav. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is also under criminal investigation for various business and personal deals. The prime minister’s bureau chief, Shula Zaken, has also been suspended amid accusations of bribery which is part of a massive Income Tax Authority scandal. The list seems unending. 

The latest fashion is the declaration of false university degrees in an attempt to gain a seat in the cabinet as in the case of Esterina Tartman of Avigdor Lieberman’s right wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party. Tartman wanted to be tourist minister and presented a string of false university degrees in order to impress her party leadership for the post. After an outcry her attempt failed. Her appearance on TV explaining her misunderstood pseudo-diplomas that she displayed was a tragic-comedy. According to a news report on Israel Radio, the adviser to the Minister of Internal Security, Avi Dichter, is under investigation for procuring a false university degree. Even the candidate for police commissioner, Yakov Ganot, has a blemished record despite his acquittal on bribery and corruption charges some years ago. Avi Dichter is determined to appoint Yakov Ganot as police commissioner despite this. Perhaps it is a matter of appointing people to high positions whose records are the least tainted by dubious legal activities. Are there any leaders left in this country whose records are unblemished by questionable legal activities? This question remains open.

If those who hold public office do not tell the truth to the public and are under criminal investigation (unfortunately there are many Knesset members in this odd situation), how can we believe them when it comes to denying physical abuse of Palestinians in the territories or the fabrications that they sell for world consumption? Olmert, as mentioned earlier, is under suspicion of corruption and is now attacking the state comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, over his preliminary report on the readiness of the home guard in its conduct during the Lebanese War of July-August 2006. Surely, with Olmert’s questionable record, his credibility is suspect as well!

Israel has a government of shame, lies and corruption! It is not fit to rule! How can one believe them when they hold peace talks with the Palestinians? Liars remain liars even when they negotiate with the Palestinians as their credibility is low even amongst the Israeli electorate. Could this also be one of many reasons for lack of progress in peace talks with the Palestinians? Israel’s leaders will tell the Palestinian leadership one thing and do the exact opposite. They will talk about peace on the one hand and continue building settlements beyond the green line on the other. Remember that Avigdor Lieberman’s right-wing racist Yisrael Beitenu (Our Home Party) is part of the coalition and so is the moderate, spineless Labour Party of the political buffoon, Amir Peretz. Lieberman will ensure that no settlements are dismantled! The ability of the Labour Party to maintain their cabinet seats with such disgusting right wing partners is more important than their integrity – but, in Israeli politics, integrity and honesty do not take priority – only political cartels involving shady deals and jobs for pals as was illustrated in the recent bribery scandals of the Income Tax Authority amongst some examples. Even the Minister of Finance is under suspicion of bribery and corruption prior to his appointment to the cabinet.

The Israeli claim that the Palestinians do not maintain peace agreements is true. Is the corrupt, insensitive Israeli Government more credible or capable of keeping any peace agreement?  What about the very wealthy businessman, Arkady Gaydemak, who is under suspicion of money laundering, and continues to be photographed with high ranking government officials? He is received in Israel with great honour for his “charitable work and generosity” despite the fact that his wealth was attained by illegal business deals.

A corrupt and dishonest leadership is the enemy of peace between Israel and the Palestinians as it is self defeating for both sides.

The Palestinian leadership is corrupt no less than the Israeli leadership. A friend of mine said that we are not “more papist than the Pope”. However, when corruption infiltrates our society at such a rapid rate with so many Knesset members involved then there is a serious problem in credibility, honesty and accountability to the electorate that voted these shady mediocrities into the Knesset.

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