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Once, the relationship between money and government seemed simple: tycoons donated to parties, opened doors for politicians, and found indirect ways to give them money - through relatives, speaking engagements, or the sale of assets at large discounts.

In exchange, politicians rewarded the tycoons with various benefits at the state's expense - selling them state-owned companies at huge discounts, awarding grants to their factories, granting them import licenses, and rezoning agricultural land for construction. Therefore, both sides received full value and only the taxpayer lost.

But the Maiman-Paritzky affair took the relationship between money and government to a higher level. No longer does one hand wash the other. Under the new system, if the government does not give you what you want, you try to destroy it. If a politician decides against you, you hire a private investigator to discredit him so that he will stop getting in your way.

Israel's natural gas project is one of the largest deals in the country's history, with revenues of $2.5 billion over 15 years and profits of hundreds of millions of shekels. The question is who would provide the gas to run the Israel Electric Corporation's planned power plant - the Egyptians or the Palestinians.

Maiman founded his EMG company with Egyptian partners. Thus far, he has invested $70 million in it. Therefore, for him, winning the contract was vital. Over the last four years, he tried to persuade the IEC and Paritzky, then-infrastructure minister, to buy the gas from EMG rather than from British Gas, which found gas in the Palestinian Authority. The IEC was convinced, Paritzky was not.

Even after the IEC decided, on May 23, to approve the purchase of gas from EMG, Paritzky kept trying to replace the Egyptians with the Palestinians. Therefore, he refused to extend the term of IEC chairman Eli Landau, planning instead to appoint a new chair who would persuade the board to reverse its decision. Maiman tried to prevent this disaster by hiring private investigator Meir Palavsky on June 1 to find material that would discredit Paritzky's preference for British Gas.

Maiman said he did so in "self-defense" against Paritzky's efforts "to put a spoke in the wheel." He added that he would have taken anything Palavsky found to the police. But if so, why didn't he take the incriminating tape to the police? Why did he allow Palavsky to give it to the press instead?

From an ethical standpoint, is it proper for a businessman with such a clear personal interest to hire a private investigator to investigate a minister? Just the act of hiring an investigator would intimidate many politicians, and any material found by the investigator could be used to extort the minister.

Clearly, for a businessman to investigate a minister just because the minister chose another supplier is improper. If Maiman had suspicions about Paritzky, he should have gone to the police.

In other words, this was an unethical use of Maiman's money. And this abuse, in fact, succeeded in achieving Paritzky's ouster: the tape Palavsky found, in which Paritzky was heard discussing the possibility of framing party colleague Avraham Poraz, caused his dismissal. And with Paritzky gone, Maiman's natural gas deal is no longer in danger.