It's only natural that in these days of the Olympic Games, Israeli ministers are also setting breath-taking records. Education, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat set a world record for jumping to the podium, and it's very likely that from now on it will be another popular type of sport, in which ministers around the world will participate. Minister Livnat has a good chance of having this move named after her, like the Tsukahara vault in gymnastics. Other ministers will need a lot of training until they reach the level of our minister, who jumped and appeared at the podium to the right of Gal Fridman, to the total surprise of the strict organizers in Athens and that of many Israeli citizens.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom also set a record last week, for an all-embracing solidarity. He suddenly hopped to Paris overnight to express solidarity with the Jews of France in their troubles. Many of the Jews there weren't so enthusiastic about the leap, and thought it was unnecessary, embarrassing, and even a nuisance, but a man like the foreign minister won't be deterred. He's like the good boy scout, who will force the old lady to accept his help in crossing the street, even if she doesn't want it.

And the third record, the record of records, belongs, of course, to Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi. Two years ago he was already crowned, in an announcement by members of his party, as "national record-holder in appointing Likud members," and he subserviently replied in the same announcement: "I admit the charge." The national record in this case is so amazing and promising - 80 Likud activists appointed to work in a small government ministry - that the day is not far when this becomes a world record: another medal to Israel.

The political appointments themselves, which are bribery in every way, are incomparably grave. But even more grave are the reactions of the minister and his partners-in-crime, who were caught in their iniquity. Hanegbi said in the wake of the State Comptroller's Report that he "didn't know that it wasn't acceptable." And this is the man who used to be justice minister in Israel and today is public security minister, may God have mercy.

But I want to dwell on the associates. Once, I also was the environment minister, and I know two of the associates well: the ministry's director-general until 2002, Yitzhak Goren, who was my aide and then became deputy director-general; and deputy director-general Yoram Horowitz, who filled the same position during my time in office.

I can testify that they - surprise, surprise - are reasonable people, not necessarily corrupt, apparently weak in character, people whom an aggressive minister could apparently divert from the straight and narrow. They are, essentially, the evidence that even good people go bad in the company of a bad minister.

When we talk about the negative influence of an appointee and about the environmental damage of a person in authority, this is the example. Only rarely can a person be found who will stand up and say to his contaminated minister, "This is it; from here on, I'm no longer carrying out your orders."

A long time ago I arrived at the conclusion that most people are "men without qualities." Like the hero of Robert Musil's book "The Man Without Qualities," they don't have character of their own. They also remind me of Zelig, the hero of Woody Allen's mischievous movie, who has the unique talent of becoming contaminated by his human surroundings; if he is among doctors, he acts like a doctor, and if he is among fat people, he becomes like a fat person.

If these characterless people had not been thrown in with Tzachi Hanegbi, they would not have become corrupt. But to their disadvantage, they were there when the new minister stepped into his predecessor's shoes. Man is born neither good nor evil; the will of the heart is generally like raw material in the hands of the creator. For this reason it is so important that people with a history like Hanegbi's should never reach the status of becoming a creator, in whose hands the too-soft human raw material is placed. And that's also why it is so important that a minister, and not just his unfortunate assistants, should finally pay the price of the dangerous, spreading rot.