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The Finance Ministry's Accountant General, Yaron Zelekha, said yesterday that Israel is a corrupt country, but that most of its civil service is honest and of high quality. Zelekha said he is optimistic since the authorities are dealing with the problems efficiently and with determination.

Zelekha spent yesterday with a security guard at his side - a result of the threats issued against him due to his fight against government corruption. "Contrary to the public impression, I am very optimistic. The problem of corruption in the country is very serious, and we are for all practical purposes the most corrupt country in the Western world. This has been determined by international organizations," he explained.

"These matters were hidden under the table, and now they are out in the open - therefore I am optimistic. The public is aware of the affairs, and that is part of the healing process," Zelekha said. He also defended the civil service, in spite of the inquiries into the Tax Authority. He said that the majority of the civil service was honest. According to him, the problem was that there were no checks and balances, and that there exist a few specific centers of corruption.

In addition to Zelekha's complaint to the state comptroller against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Bank Leumi privatization affair, there are sources who say he reported another 15 cases where Olmert intervened on behalf of businessmen.