Global index ranks Israel more corrupt than ever

HUJ professor says ranking is a result of highly visible corruption cases, not any actual deterioration.

money under the table corruption 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
money under the table corruption 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The Israeli public sector is perceived to be more corrupt now than it has been at any other time in the last 15 years, according to a global index released Thursday.
Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked 183 countries on perceptions of public sector corruption. New Zealand, with 9.5 out of a possible 10, was the least corrupt, while Somalia and North Korea provided a stark contrast with scores of 1.0.
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Israel’s score has gradually decreased since the index was first released in 1995, said Galia Sagy, director of Shvil – Transparency International’s Israel affiliate. She said Israel scored 7.71 in the first index, a far cry from its new score of 5.9.
“This country is in a critical period, in which the nation is making its voice heard and demanding social justice. The demand is for transparency, information, ethical conduct, the separation of power and money and for a fight against corruption – because corruption is one of the main causes of social inequality,” Sagy said.
But Prof. Moshe Maor, an expert on corruption from the Hebrew University’s department of political science, said Israel ranked lower not because of a deteriorating situation but because of a few highly visible cases in recent years. He referred specifically to the 2009 imprisonment of former ministers Avraham Hirchson and Shlomo Benizri, the July conviction of former Hadera mayor Shmuel Levy, and upcoming trials of other municipal leaders.
“These are just a few cases, but they are highly visible. As a result there is a deep perception amongst the Israeli people and the Israeli elite regarding the rise in corruption,” Maor told The Jerusalem Post. “I believe there were similar levels of corruption in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80 and ’90s as there are today, but now the media are much more aggressive in reporting on it.”
Maor said other countries could actually learn from Israel’s “efficient” anti-corruption structure. Numerous government agencies have power of investigation, he said, naming the State Comptroller’s Office, Israel Police, Military Police, Israel Corporations Authority, Israel Antitrust Authority and Israel Securities Authority.
The problem is not the structure, but rather two decades of government interference in the work of these organizations, Maor said. He gave as an example the 2006 dismissal of Police Investigations Unit head Moshe Mizrahi. Mizrahi was forced out of his position by then Public Security minister Gideon Ezra, in a move seen by some as an attempt to stifle the police’s abilities to listen in on politicians.
“It was a political decision,” he said. “If the government was serious about fighting public sector corruption, they would have provided proper funding for these agencies, wouldn’t interfere in nominations and would stop attacking those agencies in the media, [because] these attacks undermine the legitimacy of the fight against public corruption, the legitimacy of these agencies and the legitimacy of the heads of these agencies.”
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.