The Bottom Line / Skeletons in Rabbi Lau's closet
MK Shelly Yachimovich sent Rabbi Israel Meir Lau a warning letter last week that could not be misunderstood: "In light of the circumstances of President Katsav's temporary suspension, I strongly recommend that Rabbi Lau forgo his candidacy. I have a certain basis to assume that if he runs a number of affairs from the past may just resurface, including some that were not publicized," she wrote.
Yachimovich is trying, in a way that smells of threats of extortion, to prevent Rabbi Lau from running for the post of president of Israel. Never mind the threats, what is really troubling is that Yachimovitch is holding onto a file on Rabbi Lau - and not publicizing it.
It seems from her actions that the file is not serious enough to prevent Rabbi Lau from continuing to serve as the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, and there is nothing in it to prevent him from hosting a daily segment on Channel 1 in which he teaches Torah and proper behavior.
But if Rabbi Lau insists on running for president, only then will she open up Pandora's box, and publicly expose him - and prevent him from being appointed president. There is something corrupt in such an approach.
Firstly: the sword hanging over the candidate's head on the eve of the elections is supposed to stop him from running. Second, he is holding on to such information instead of publicly exposing it. Lastly (and most problematically), the unspoken agreement that some public posts allow a person to have dirty secrets - and others don't.
If Rabbi Lau has skeletons in his closet that were likely to keep him from serving as president, then it should be expected that they would also keep him from serving as the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv.
If we want to set standards for public behavior and morals, they should apply to all public positions. In other words, we need to set a very high bar for honesty and ethics when first receiving a position of public trust. For every single job.
This is not done today, and it is one of the reasons that many of those in government are being forced to undergo investigations for corruption for their actions in previous public roles. We allow public servants to advance, even to the highest position in the country, and only then do we bother to open their personal files and see what is hidden inside.
This is how we lose out twice. First, we have allowed the office holder to go on functioning while all the time hiding his skeletons; after we have paved the road for his advance to the very highest level - instead of letting him deal with the most important affairs of the public - he is kept too busy with investigations and personal survival.
Every child knows that "the stories about Katsav have been around for years and everyone knew." If everyone knew, then we could only describe ourselves as hypocrites.
We are willing to accept a Transportation Minister or mayor who is a sexual harasser or rapist, but we are not willing for our president to be a sex offender. This means that we are bothered more by the harm done to the institution of the presidency or prime ministry, than from the actual corruption or sex crimes of politicians.