Abraham Hirschson - Moti Kimche - 2009
Abraham Hirschson in Tel Aviv District Court, 2009. Photo by Moti Kimche
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Corruption in Israel has risen to record dimensions, at least according to the latest survey tracking perceptions in the business community by the organization Transparency International.

Israel's ranking was affected by the parade of high officials indicted in the last couple years, says Galia Sagy, head of Israel Transparency International. "The accrual of corruption allegations filters down and affects perception," she said.

More specifically, it's at its lowest point since Israel's inclusion in the international survey 15 years ago, in 1997. This year Israel received a mark of 5.8, down from 6.2 in 2010.

The mark is based on a broad public survey conducted over two years - in this case from September 2009 to September 2011 - among businessmen in Israel, foreign businessmen who do business in Israel and experts on corruption in government.

The organization defines corruption as abuse of power for personal gain. It casts a spotlight on illicit relations between wealth and government.

Among the 183 nations surveyed, Israel fell six notches to 36th place this year, from 30th in 2010. (The higher the rank, the less corrupt the country is).

The result paints Israel as one of the more corrupt nations in the West - 25th among the 34 nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In 2009 Israel received a mark of 5.9, putting it in 30th place. Its position improved in 2010, but evidently not for long.

When Israel first joined the ranking in 1997, it received a much higher mark of 7.9, and ranked 15th in the West. But as time passed, the perception of corruption worsened.

This year Israel tied with the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island nation in the Caribbean.

Bhutan, Malta and Puerto Rico ranked just below Israel (more corrupt ), with marks of 5.6 and 5.7. Also among the more corrupt nations are Poland (5.5 ), Lithuania (4.8 ) and Hungary (4.6 ).

The United States placed 24th, with a mark of 7.1. Germany and Japan tied for 14th place with a mark of 8.

At the top of the list is New Zealand, with a mark of 9.5, followed by Denmark and Finland, with a mark of 9.4.

At the bottom is Somalia with a mark of 1.0.

Is Israel's ranking likely to improve? Sagy seems skeptical. "We don't see actions designed to halt the downward slide," she said on Wednesday. The summer protests against the onerous cost of living in Israel also called for more transparency, she pointed out: The ties between wealth and government need to be severed, as corruption is one of the main causes of inequality.