What is one of the best ways to get elected mayor in Israel? Get indicted for
At least that is a strategy that worked for Shlomo Lahiani
(Bat Yam), Yitzchak Rochberger (Ramat Hasharon) and Shimon Gafsou (Nazareth
All three were mayors until down-the-stretch of the election
campaign (in Lahiani’s case, less than two days before the vote), when they were
fired by the High Court of Justice after being indicted for various financial
But just as the High Court said it had the power to fire them, it
also said it lacked the power to prevent them from running for
All three were reelected in their respective
What does their reelection, despite the prosecution
indicting them and the High Court rebuking them for not self-resigning by firing
them, mean morally, and what does it say about how the public views the courts?
A short answer, which avoids the broader moral questions, would be that even as
the High Court fired them and said it was uneasy with letting them run again,
the public focused on the fact that the court did allow them to run and on the
idea of innocent until proven guilty (read: convicted and not merely indicted.)
A more controversial answer would be that the public’s vote is an endorsement of
the mayors at the court’s expense.
This is a definite
Over the past year, the courts have been hammered on a
general basis, with hard-hitting attacks from many political parties on various
decisions made on hot issues such as the settlements and
Judges, as a class, have also been attacked after multiple
scandals as well as revelations that Supreme Court President Asher
Grunis had admitted, in a closed-committee hearing, that some judges
on the bench are “ticking bombs” waiting to go off.
The most troubling
answer might be that the public is ready to overlook corruption and is willing
to reelect politicians who are charismatic and personable, even if they had been
found guilty of abusing their positions.
Shas party leader Arye Deri’s
successful return to politics after his prison term and a seven-year ban would
testify to that possibility.
This would fly in the face of a famous 1993
case and quote by former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, who said that
“the purity of service and state of mind stands at the foundation of public
service and at the foundation of our societal structure.”
This does not
mean that the public views corruption as irrelevant, only that it might value
dynamic leadership as more important than Barak had envisioned.
message that this might send to future politicians considering corrupt schemes
could have disturbing implications.
But the story may not be
A bill is under consideration which could force indicted local
officials into temporary suspension.
Also, OMETZ, the Movement for the
Quality of Government in Israel, filed a new petition on Wednesday asking the
court to refire the mayors.
The court’s decision will likely consider why
it had allowed the mayors to run for reelection. If it was because of the
possibility that the public might not vote for them, and that the public
rejecting them was a preferred result, there is a good chance that the court
will refire them.
But maybe the court fired them and allowed them to run
because they were elected before the public had any knowledge of their
indictment and, in this week’s election, they had that information.
that case, the court might feel bound to respect the public’s decision, even
though it was willing to fire the mayors before the public had spoken on the