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The Likud Central Committee was considered until this week to be the "seismograph" of the "nationalist camp." The volume of its applause signals who among the Likud leaders is more popular than whom. But this week, even this reliable seismograph broke down and became a useless instrument. It broke down because it registered a peak response to the appearance of MK Naomi Blumenthal, who is almost certainly not about to inherit the position of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Blumenthal is a warm and pleasant woman, but I don't know the secret of her popularity. I think I do know the secret of the thunderous applause that shook the foundations of the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv on Monday.

Those who cheered Blumenthal there were not only people whom she favored with wedding and bar mitzvah gifts, and not only people who had a good time at her expense at the City Tower Hotel. The cheers filled the entire auditorium. They were not organized like the cheers for Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or Education Minister Limor Livnat, and we can assume that they were entirely spontaneous and expressed profound and real emotion.

Even in a place where "criminal elements" are involved, as the education minister so aptly put it, people preserve a certain "sense of justice." Who knows as well as the members of the central committee that Naomi Blumenthal was wronged when she and only she was made to pay the price for a common and accepted practice, which has long been familiar to them, and the bastards suddenly changed the rules of the game.

At least Blumenthal brought from home the money that was earmarked, according to the indictment, to bribe members of the central committee, whereas many of her colleagues brought it from some public coffer. So the entire community sinned, and only Naomi was punished? Such Hottentot morality is unacceptable even to "criminal elements," not to mention decent people, who can also be found here and there in the central committee.

Blumenthal was brought to justice for the very serious act that she perpetrated, according to the indictment; but this was done only in order to create a false impression that something is being done to clean out the stables. But the stables remain very dirty, and the lead horses continue undisturbed to drop their excrement.

This government, and particularly Shinui, headed by Justice Minister Yosef Lapid, has often boasted of a tremendous achievement: the removal of the corrupt and voracious Shas from the "teats of government." I don't feel sorry for Shas, we are familiar with the damage it did, and we even had to leave the government because of Shas and its insatiable lust for money. And it's good for us and for Shas to be in the opposition for a while, far from the pleasures of government: Opposition is sometimes purifying and curative.

It's true that Shas suffered from serious and outrageous revelations of moral corruption; its head and quite a few of its activists were even convicted in the courts and punished. But since the formation of the Sharon-Lapid government, I have come to the conclusion that while the members of Shas may be corrupt, they are not necessarily the most corrupt; in any case, Shas is not alone in the area of corruption.

For some reason, I haven't heard the justice minister warn as vociferously about the corruption that is now descending to the roots and ascending to the top. Maybe the minister stammered something, but he vented his full wrath only on Blumenthal; so we're back to Blumenthal - that's Naomi, who's so easy to beat up on, after all, what can you lose?

The corruption in the Likud is immeasurably more dangerous than the corruption in Shas. Shas was not the ruling party, and therefore it couldn't form ties - as only the Likud can - between capital, government and "criminal elements." And second, the corruption of Shas was reflected more within its own four walls, in its ghetto, whereas the corruption in the Likud is destroying everything around it and reaches the top of the pyramid. How can one compare the Likud and Shas? But Shas, like Naomi Blumenthal, is very easy to condemn and to vomit out, and the nausea of the justice minister is apparently very selective, too.