Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday made a public call to honor whistle-blowers in public corruption cases. Honorees would receive a special award from the state at Livni’s recommendation and the awards would be handed out by President Shimon Peres.
The call is part of a 1992 law to encourage ethical conduct in public service, that empowers the president to grant such awards to whistle-blowers whose information on public corruption is found to be valid.
Ironically, currently there is an ongoing negotiation between Shula Zaken, former top aide to former prime minister Ehud Olmert, over whether she will turn state’s witness against him in the Holyland trial.
In a country whose former or prime minister, foreign minister, and other top-level officials have been accused or convicted of corruption – and others have been acquitted, but hammered by the courts as seriously violating ethical standards – the awards are meant to strengthen those helping to combat public corruption.
Livni’s search for awardees is being undertaken through advertisements by the government, announcements to the press, requesting information under the Freedom of Information Law, and soliciting recommendations from law enforcement authorities.
“The struggle against corruption is a struggle for all of us,” said Livni, “since it is a struggle for the sake of Israeli democracy.”
She added, “We are sending a clear message: the State of Israel stands beside courageous citizens who do the right thing and do not turn a blind eye on injustice – but rather, who fight against it and bring it to light. This is not an action to be taken for granted, unfortunately, and therefore, it is fitting for high praise.”
One complication for the award could be that, in many of the highest profile cases, the best state’s witnesses have themselves been involved in a crime, and are thus ineligible for the award.
Zaken, for example, even if she turns state’s witness and even if her information might help to convict Olmert, she could not qualify for award because of her alleged involvement in the crimes.