Taking Stock / Who invented Olmert and Hirchson?
Three weeks have passed since Israelis learned that their finance minister has a fondness, strange as it may seem, for cash-stuffed envelopes. Sixteen days have passed since it was broadcast all over the media that our finance minister was caught with a suitcase filled with $250,000 in cash.
Two weeks have passed since it became clear that the minister and his son, who was up to his neck in debts, had financial doings between them - and this, despite the clear position announced by the finance minister when he was chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee.
Seventeen days have gone by since police first approached Hirchson in an investigation as a suspect in serious crimes - and Abraham Hirchson still thinks that he can continue to manage the public purse and be responsible for hundreds of billions of shekels in public funds.
But we do have to admit that Hirchson's clinging to his sensitive public position, despite the exposure of his personal financial dealings and the huge fraud committed under his watch at the National Workers Organization (NWO), is not really surprising.
Hirchson knows who he represents. Who knows better than him what are the acceptable norms of behavior among other cabinet ministers, MKs and government officials? They are all where they are today because of the power, the jobs and the money. They all know that whatever they sow in secret today as public servants, they will reap tomorrow as private businessmen after the political system spits them out - and then they will be free to be paid back for the debts owed them today. They will be free to reap the seeds of the small, hidden corruptions they are planting today.
The prime minister is the one who should be responsible for showing his finance minister the door; to explain to him that criminal suspects who manage their own financial dealings in cash cannot be left in such a sensitive position until they cleanse themselves of any speck of suspicion. And not just from suspicions of criminality, but from any suspicion of unethical or inappropriate behavior.
But our prime minister has a problem. He also has a long list of ongoing investigations against him. In the worst case, they will lead to criminal indictments, and in the best case, they will only expose behavior inappropriate for a public official.
The prime minister is the last person who would be interested in sending a message now to the public and the entire political system that public servants must resign, or at least suspend themselves, when they are suspected of serious crimes or corruption.
Olmert actually wants to send the opposite message, just like when he made his most recent appointment: Prof. Daniel Friedmann as justice minister.
We could debate the matter of Friedman's wishes to reform the closed circle of the Supreme Court. There are those who think that it is a critical reform, and others who view it as an attempt to weaken the court's power.
But on the other hand, his public announcements against the prosecution of the crime of breach of trust are almost impossible to interpret in any positive way.
Anyone who follows the rising corruption in the public sector and the Israeli economy over the last decade knows the crime of breach of trust is one of the last obstacles left on the slippery slope leading Israel to the status of a banana republic - a plutocracy where the state's resources are handed over gradually to those close to the powers that be.
With a prime minister well-known for his fondness for the rich, and a justice minister who has declared war on the crimes of breach of trust - it is no wonder that our cash-loving finance minister is in no hurry to quit, or at least to suspend himself.
The wave of exposed corruption affairs has garnered a lot of publicity over the past few months. There are those who are atoning for their sins, and those who are calling on others to atone. But what many have forgotten is that this present era of corruption did not start during Olmert's reign.
The person who is the most responsible for the vile decay that has spread through Israeli politics, government and economy is, of course, our beloved former prime minister Ariel Sharon. Even those who are mourning now over the corruption still miss his great reign.
Former prime minister Sharon, and his sons Omri and Gilad, were the record-setters in corruption and disgusting moral behavior. One affair after another chased after them from the moment they took control of the government and brought in all their friends and cronies.
But since then, under the cover of a security smoke screen and a mass of talented advertising and marketing people, Sharon and his sons have managed to distract the public and win over the hearts of the media.
When it was no longer possible to stop the raging flow of exposes, the disengagement plan was born. This brought with it the "to hell with the corruption" theory, which stated that what was most important was to have a leader who would do what most of the commentators were convinced should be done.
The Sharon family and the "leave the corruption alone" theory are what have brought us Ehud Olmert and his clones.
Not just because Sharon chose Olmert as his number two, but because he set the standard that says there is no need to be interested in anyone's personal dealings. Anything is acceptable as long as they provide murky "diplomatic advances" or know how to create a security smoke screen behind which to hide.
In terms of public acts, there is little difference between Sharon and Olmert - except that Sharon arranged for his ranch, for himself and his sons, 40 years ago.
Anyone who is truly interested in learning real lessons from what has been going on here in the past few years should start with the question: What is the most important issue that should be on our agenda? The culture of government and education in Israel, or the security-political spin of the week about Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, captives, terrorists or Qassams?
The real purpose of all these issues is to distract public attention so that the senior leaders and their friends can steal the future of our economic, health, social and educational well-being to their hearts' content.
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