Katsav: Primaries induce corruption

"If there had been primaries when I ran for Knesset, I would not be President."

katsav 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
katsav 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Despite their political differences, President Moshe Katsav, and former government minister Moshe Shahal both claimed on Monday that party primaries induced corruption. "I know there's a great dispute over primaries" Katsav told the steering committee of the National Commission for the Examination of the Structure of Government and the Electoral System, "but I think that primaries are dangerous and that they induce corruption." If there had been primaries the first time that he ran for Knesset, said Katsav, "I would not be President today." At that time of his life, he would never have been able to raise the funds required for an election campaign, he said. Although they served in the Knesset on opposite sides of the political spectrum, Shahal endorsed Katsav's opinion that primaries were corrupt, adding the rider: "I'm not sure that we can refer to it only in past tense." Katsav said that he was more in favor of Knesset lists being selected by party central committees and recalled that either in 1988 or 1992 after the first and second rounds of deliberations and choices, it was realized that the list did not contain a woman, an Arab, a Jerusalemite or a resident of Gush Dan. Thus on the third round, the list was duly amended so that it could be more representative of the nation at large. Primaries do not allow for this kind of amendment, he pointed out. Shahal wanted all parties to adopt specific criteria that would disqualify corrupt candidates from inclusion in Knesset lists. "Anyone who sets up a string of fictitious non-profit organizations through which to funnel funds into the election campaign or anyone who buys votes, would be automatically disqualified from standing for election, he instanced." The steering committee, the various subcommittees and the plenum of the commission have had several meetings since the commission first convened in September, 2005, and Katsav, after listening to reports by subcommittee chairmen or their representatives, was unable to hide his impatience with the fact that commission, which is chaired by Hebrew University President Menachem Megidor, had not yet established its priorities. "This is an opportunity which we must not miss and in which we must not fail," he declared, insisting that when the commission completes its work and presents its recommendations in mid September, 2006, that it takes priorities and feasibility into account. "What is the most important issue?" he asked. "I could instantly list ten for you, but I can't decide on their priority. If there is stability and efficiency," he said by way of example, "it still doesn't guarantee democracy." Aware that the public wanted a strong leader, which is why it continued to support Ariel Sharon despite allegations of corruption and the trampling of democracy, Katsav noted that a strong leader sometimes runs counter to democratic principles. The fact that the public is so desirous of a strong leader, he added, "demonstrates how little confidence it has in the Knesset." Although Israel is confronted with crucial political decisions, there is something very troublesome about the fact that 35% of Israelis did not vote, even though they knew that their failure to do so would lead to further disengagement; and that those that did vote enabled the Gil Pensioners Party which had no political platform, a spectacular victory, said Katsav. While happy at Gil's success, Katsav was nonetheless concerned that no one knew where Gil stood on political issues.