Kickback nation

Last week’s light show has been spectacular in the glowing number of indictments handed down as the result of numerous corruption investigations by the Israel Police.

August 12, 2017 22:21
3 minute read.
Netanyahu and ministers Braverman and Katz at a a security cabinet meeting, August 2017

Prime Minister Netanyahu, Tzachi Braverman, and Yisrael Katz at security cabinet meeting. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

It seems to be the worst of times regarding a cascade of corruption accusations against government ministers from the top down, but it is also the best of times for our nation’s judiciary. It continues to displaying to the world the impartiality and efficiency of our democracy.

There is no other democratic nation whose former prime minister, finance minister, interior minister – and not to forget former president and former chief rabbi – have all been sent to prison. While on obvious moral levels this is a shameful record, in terms of what they call public diplomacy it is a rather spectacular example of that familiar, but not often fulfilled, mission of being a light unto the nations.

Such light these days seems to emanate from a spotlight, like the kind focused on suspects during their interrogation.

Last week’s light show has been spectacular in the glowing number of indictments handed down as the result of numerous corruption investigations by the Israel Police.

As one should expect from the only democracy in the Middle East, our law enforcement leaders serve as role models, pursuing their duties despite the unprecedented attacks by what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refers to as the media thought police. So, noblesse oblige – we’ll review the current score on the ever-escalating corruption scale, starting from the top down.

The Israel Police is investigating the prime minister on suspicion of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, according to a court document that was revealed accidentally when it was filed with the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court. The court then imposed a gag order on the details of Case 1000 (the “Gifts Affair”) and Case 2000 (the “Israel Hayom Affair”), and on any details of a state’s witness deal with his former chief of staff, Ari Harow. The gag expires after September 17.

Harow is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and advancing his business interests while employed at the Prime Minister’s Office.

It would not be unfair to include the prime minister’s wife and closest adviser, Sara, who even though she holds no former title has been recommended by the police for indictment on her own corruption charges.

Next in order of seniority would have to be Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, as the responsible chairmen of Yisrael Beytenu, 10 of whose high officials were indicted last week for a smelly bouquet of corruption going back years.

The corruption scandal, revealed in late 2014, involved party officials allegedly demanding bribes in exchange for arranging government grants and funding for NGOs. The accused include former deputy minister Faina Kirschenbaum and ex-tourism minister Stas Meseznikov. The latter is also expected to be indicted, for bribery, fraud, breach of trust, drug charges and obstruction of justice.

Kirschenbaum was charged with bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and tax offenses. The State Attorney’s Office asked to impound her and her husband’s bank accounts and property worth NIS 5.7 million.

Other ex-party officials charged include former party chief of staff David Godovsky and former Agriculture Ministry director-general Rami Cohen (and his wife, Batya), as well as lobbyist Steven Levy, and several heads of NGOs.

As is customary, the parties concerned are eagerly pursuing state’s witness deals to avoid being prosecuted. There are currently six state’s witnesses involved in the case, including former Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika, who resigned due to the corruption scandal.

Third in line, but first in apparent recidivism, ex-convict and rehabilitated Interior Minister Arye Deri was questioned by the police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit on suspicion of tax offenses, money laundering and breach of trust. These, it should be recalled, were virtually the same crimes for which the seemingly unrepentant Deri went to prison, under a conviction that included a seven-year ban on holding office for causing public disgrace.

The Deris were questioned about three issues: suspicion of tax offenses, fraud and money laundering; allegations that construction of a vacation home in near Mount Merom was financed by money that went unreported to the tax authorities; and last for now the NGO Mifalot Simha, which Yafa Deri runs, is suspected of tax evasion.

It might seem like – and might be – a list of shame. But thankfully, we can rest assured that the same system of justice that sent the nation’s highest secular and religious leaders to prison before will not shirk in pursuing justice as our heritage teaches.

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