Soldiers ride in a pick up truck at their base in the outskirts of Freetown, June 10, 1997.
Soldiers ride in a pick up truck at their base in the outskirts of Freetown, June 10, 1997. Is Israel as corrupt as Sierra Leone? Photo by AP
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The vast majority of Israelis surveyed in a recent poll think corruption among businesses in Israel is common. The local results were included in the results of a worldwide Gallup poll on perceptions of business corruption, released over the weekend. When asked whether business corruption was widespread in Israel, 85% of respondents said it was, 9% said it was not and 6% said they did not know.

Israel had the highest corruption ranking of all the participating countries in the Middle East. In the world rankings, Israel ranked 18th in the level of perceived corruption, on a par with Greece, Slovenia and Sierra Leone.

In Israel's favor, however, the authors of the polls noted that perceptions of the presence of corruption are reinforced in developed countries such as Israel where transparency and access to information on the issue are greater.

An Israeli government source said in response that business corruption here is not as bad as the poll implies, and is on a steady decline. The source said the issue remains a problem primarily in the real estate sector, in the defense industry and among firms that do business with the government. Publicly-traded companies are generally meticulous in their ethical standards and honesty, as are senior civil servants, the source said.

A source in the business sector said the vast majority of businesses in Israel do not seek illegal shortcuts and where corruption does exist it's in fields where there is a lot of contact with regulatory agencies. The findings were based on face-to-face interviews with respondents aged 15 and over. The poll was available in Hebrew and Arabic and was conducted during the last two months of 2011.