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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As the election campaign entered its final stretch, Transparency International-Israel published a stinging criticism Wednesday of many of Israel's major parties, arguing that almost none of them take important principles of good government seriously.
These include transparency, access to information, and taking a strong stand on the war on corruption, the group said.
The nonprofit organization published its review of seven parties - Labor, Kadima, Likud, Meretz, Israel Beiteinu, the National Union and Shas - coming to the conclusion that "values of transparency and ethics have been placed in the back seat."
"The feeling is that the parties deal with topics of transparency merely as a catchphrase, if it all," said Prof. Yosi Gross, chairman of TI - Israel.
"The fact that only one party devoted part of its platform to detailing topics related to the struggle against corruption, separation of money and political power and increasing transparency should light a red warning light among the voting public," he added.
"All of the public must work to change the situation, not just in the few days that remain until the elections, but also afterwards, when the new government takes power."
The organization initially sent e-mails to the seven parties' Web sites, asking questions including: Is there a party platform? Is there an ethical code for the party? Does the party intend to support or to advance the existence of ethical codes for MKs and cabinet members? How does the party relate to topics of ethics and transparency, and how are they expressed in your platform?
According to TI representatives, the only parties to send a personal response to the e-mail were Meretz, whose chairman Haim Oron responded, and the Likud, whose response was sent by party spokeswoman Nili Richman.
Other parties, they said, responded by merely sending a link to their platforms on the Internet.
Organization members then read through the party platforms, searching for references to topics "that reflect values of ethics, transparency and accessibility to information."
According to the report only one party - Meretz - had included in its platform substantial references to the subject.
The report added that, "while the topic engendered a few sentences of reflection in other parties' platforms, Meretz's platform includes many details, including the steps the party would take to combat corruption, to increase transparency and to separate money from political power."
Only one party, Shas, made no reference to ethical standards or transparency. The party was not available to comment on the report Wednesday. The rest of the parties examined did deem the topic deserving of at least perfunctory mentions.
According to Labor's platform, the party will "run a different kind of politics, which will return to the public their trust in the honesty of public figures and their readiness to act for the general good.
"We will present our policy to the public, including painful and difficult decisions, without extra alarms or alarmism."
Kadima emphasized transparency, writing that it would act "to widen and deepen transparency with the goal that citizens will able to receive better services and to better examine the efficiency of government services."
The Likud did not refer to transparency but stressed that "Netanyahu and the Likud will work to conform to ethical values in all aspects of public activity, promoting ethical values and returning norms of public honesty and clean hands."
The National Union offered stronger language, promising that it "will act to root out corruption and maintain ethical purity in all public bodies and government institutions, and will advance legislation that will forbid the involvement of foreign countries or foundations in Israeli society."
Israel Beiteinu said that it will make fighting public corruption a priority and that "government ministers will be required to submit to the Knesset multi-year plans, and to offer annual reports regarding the fulfillment of those plans at intervals determined by the Knesset."
"The subject of transparency is high in Meretz's agenda and we will act to advance it," said a senior member of the party's election team Wednesday.
"To our regret, many parties don't take the topic as seriously, because they likely have something to hide. At the same time, many of the parties that speak against corruption are themselves tainted by serious corruption cases involving their members."