President Reuven Rivlin.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A new umbrella organization headed by former state comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss met with President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday to share ideas about promoting transparency and battling corruption in government, public and civil service bodies.
Known as the New Era Forum, the organization consists of nine associations that focus on different areas of transparency and corruption, but have the common denominator of desiring integrity on the part of elected and appointed officials, and more responsible decisions on issues that affect the public’s welfare and quality of life.
Almost every participant in the meeting commended Rivlin, a former Knesset speaker, for his integrity and his dedication to democracy.
Former MK Mali Polishuk, who had chaired the Knesset State Control Committee, dubbed Rivlin “the last of the democrats” and hailed him as a “great defender of democracy.”
Several speakers commented that without transparency, there is no democracy.
Among the issues that arose at the meeting were responsible drilling for oil in Israeli waters; the need for legislation detailing the ethics governing public service; the dangerous relationship between corporate wealth and the political administration; and likewise, the relationship between corporate wealth and the media.
The participants also called for greater recognition of people who exposed corruption, complaining that until now, such individuals were largely perceived as whistle-blowers and informers instead of people with integrity.
Regarding complaints about transparency in the Knesset, Rivlin noted that six parliamentary committees are video- taped and their proceedings screened on television in real time – about as transparent a scenario as possible.
Justice Ministry Director-General Ami Palmor, meanwhile, expressed the need to break down bureaucratic barriers.
“There are too many walls and not enough bridges between the public and the administration,” she said.
When the New Era Forum’s affiliates established the body several months ago, they unanimously tapped Lindenstrauss to head it. During the five years leading up his appointment as state comptroller, he chaired the Advisory Committee of the Speaker of the Knesset, during which time he worked closely with Rivlin. Lindenstrauss also chaired the Movement for a Better Israel.
As state comptroller, he was relentless in pursuing and exposing flaws in the system, and at the end of his seven- year tenure, he declared that there was still a lot of work to be done.
In the interim, numerous public figures – including judges, prosecutors, legislators, government ministers, mayors, bankers, and captains of industry – have been investigated, indicted, charged and, in some cases, imprisoned.
However, members of the forum maintain that greater transparency could have prevented much of this corruption, because there would have been fewer opportunities for corrupt behavior.
At the start of Tuesday’s meeting, Rivlin made reference to the recent brouhaha over the performing arts, which began last week when Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev threatened to remove funding from a Jaffa- based theater whose owner had refused to participate in a performance in the Jordan Valley.
Rivlin said the arts were not the property of one camp or another – not the Left, not the Right, not Mizrahi, not Ashkenazi. It would be a terrible thing, he said, if the arts fell victim to politicization.
The arts are not tools of warfare, he went on, but tools of debate and communication, tools that overcome obstacles and do not build fences.