Conference for society opens today in Sderot

Study finds that 69 percent of the population believes that gov't corruption is highest ever.

knesset plenum 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
knesset plenum 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Political corruption is higher than ever before, with dishonesty running very deep within the establishment, according to the results of a survey released Monday by Sderot's Sapir College and the steering committee of the Sderot Conference for Society, which kicks off Tuesday in the southern border town. The annual study, which sampled 551 Israeli adults over the past month, found that 69 percent of the population believes that corruption within the Israeli government is much higher than it ever was in the past. This year's figure shows a rise of 1% over last year and denotes a steady rise since the survey was first conducted in 2002. In addition, 40% of those questioned said that the level of government corruption has many layers. Only 9% said they believed the government was not corrupt or only slightly corrupt. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that while the statistics have stayed stable over the past three years, the most alarming detail of this year's study was that "73% of the public say that corruption is the number one factor that stops them from being proud of their country." "Political corruption is the country's public enemy number one," said Dayan, who is also the chairman of political action party Tafnit. "People are aware that the fish smells from the head down, and that puts Israel in a very bad place." He said that while this study focused exclusively on corruption within Israel, international studies have ranked Israel fairly high among the most corrupt countries in the world. Among the most corrupt institutions in Israel, according to those questioned for the poll, were political parties (59%), followed by Knesset members (44%) and local municipalities (39%). One in every eight people asked said they were aware of some sort of corruption taking place in their immediate environment. The study, which is slated to be presented in full at the conference on Wednesday, also includes a list of those politicians considered by the public to be the most corrupt. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came out at the top of the list in last year's corruption poll. "This year the [former finance minister Avraham] Hirchson scandal is seen as the corruption scandal of the year," said Dayan. "Because he was specifically appointed by the prime minister." "Israelis identify corruption as coming from above and see those in power as not bothering to fight against such corruption," he added. The study's most surprising find, according to Dayan, is that there has been a significant improvement in the public's attitude towards the Israel Police, with only 29% seeing the police establishment as corrupt, compared to 39% in 2006 and 32% in 2005. The army is considered the cleanest public operation, with only 12% finding fault in its workings. Established five years ago with the aim of raising awareness of corruption and a variety of socioeconomic issues, the conference is also well-known for its annual Social Strength Index. The results of this year's index showed a marked improvement over 2006 in the socioeconomic and social welfare sphere. Despite the improvements, however, roughly half of those questioned for the index said that they did not feel confident that in the future they would be able to support their families (54%) or save their money (47%). "Despite the improvement in the figures, the Israeli public still does not see the state as one that provides its citizens with basic social rights," said Dayan. The two-day conference will discuss topics such as how increase social concerns in the 2008 state budget, how social issues are presented in the media and the standing of women in society. Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, Education Minister Yuli Tamir, Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadle, Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra, as well as many other Knesset members, businesspeople, researchers and other policymakers are all expected to attend.