Israel was ranked 32nd in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index (CPI) which was released Tuesday. Israel moved up one spot from its 2008 ranking, with a score of 6.1 out of 10.
The index ranks the 180 participating countries according to the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians. The CPI draws on 13 different polls and surveys from 10 independent institutions, and includes surveys of business people and country analysts from organizations like the World Bank, the Economist Intelligence Unit and Freedom House.
Transparency International defines corruption as "The abuse of entrusted power for private gain." At the top of the list stands New Zealand, with a CPI score of 9.4, and at the bottom lies Somalia, with a score of 1.1.
Rounding up the top three are Denmark in second and Singapore, tied with Sweden in third. Down on the bottom, Somalia was narrowly beaten out by Afghanistan and Myanmar.
Israel was ranked well ahead of most of its direct neighbors, Egypt (111), Jordan (49), Syria (126) and Lebanon (130), but fell behind other Middle Eastern countries like Qatar (22) and United Arab Emirates (30).
The United States ranked 19th,with a score of 7.5, while other aspiring global superpowers ranked substantially lower.
Despite the launching of an anti-corruption drive and intensifying a crackdown on corruption in the public sector, China only managed to score 3.6 placing it in 79th place. India, the second Asian rising power came in 84th place and Russia ranked 156th.
Botswana, in 37th place, was the highest ranked African country, and one of only three to score more than five points, the other two being Mauritius and Cape Verde.
Middle Eastern powers Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran came in 63rd, 61st and 168th respectively. Iran dropped 27 spots between 2008 and 2009 from 141st place to 168th.
While acknowledging that the CPI method is not well suited to making comparisons of scores from year to year, Transparency International decided to highlight several noteworthy examples of deteriorations and improvements. In the deterioration list are the countries of Bahrain, Greece, Iran, Malaysia, Malta and Slovakia and the improving countries are Bangladesh, Belarus, Guatemala, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Syria and Tonga.
"Stemming corruption requires strong oversight by parliaments, a well-performing judiciary, independent and properly resourced audit and anti-corruption agencies, vigorous law enforcement, transparency in public budgets, revenue and aid flows, as well as space for independent media and a vibrant civil society," said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International.
"With the vast majority of countries in the 2009 index scoring below five (130 out of 180), the corruption challenge is undeniable. Fragile, unstable states that are scarred by war and ongoing conflict linger at the bottom of the index. The international community must find efficient ways to help war-torn countries to develop and sustain their own institutions," said Labelle.
Professor Ephraim Yaar from Tel Aviv University said that the CPI is important but points out that it is a survey based on public opinion. Yaar, who was the author of the recently introduced Israel Corruption Index said, that while his study uses a wide variety of sources to make up the index, including media coverage, court records and state comptroller reports, the Transparency International index is limited in its ability to dig deep for its data.
"I wouldn't get excited over a drop or rise of one spot in the rankings. The CPI uses data from previous years and doesn't necessarily best reflect current trends," said Yaar. He said that if Israel would continue on its path of aggressively combating corruption, Israel would likely begin to rise in the rankings in years to come.
"Our research shows that Israelis are keen on doing away with corruption and they reject the notion that the battle against corruption impedes on the government's ability to act," said Yaar.
In a study that was released on Monday as part of the Sderot Conference for Society, general corruption in the Israeli establishment and among its high-ranking officials was found to be the main reason most people do not feel proud to be Israeli. According to the data, which was collected and analyzed by the conference's steering committee and Sderot's Sapir College, 73 percent of the public said the unacceptable levels of corruption in the political establishment made them less proud to be Israeli.
Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.