Setting an example
The primary election for the Kadima party leadership are an excellent opportunity to significantly clean up the political process in Israel. Kadima candidates could serve a good example and improve their party's image, which has recently taken quite a beating.
The primary election for the Kadima party leadership is an excellent opportunity to significantly clean up the political process in Israel. The Kadima candidates could serve a good example and improve their party's image, which has recently taken quite a beating.
The formula is simple: The Kadima primary candidates should announce they will not accept any international contributions - directly or indirectly - and that if they choose to accept such donations, they will do so on condition that the donor's identity and amount invested be revealed to the public.
In case anyone has forgotten, here is a reminder: Many of the criminal investigations against our prime ministers have focused on contributions from abroad, whether directly or through nonprofits. Let's not forget that this issue is also one of the main reasons Ehud Olmert is now resigning from office.
Up until now, contributions have been approached mainly from a legal standpoint, but the truth is they are really more of a public issue. The primaries force all the candidates to raise huge sums, and that in itself is problematic, but it is intolerable when the money comes from overseas. Usually it comes from wealthy Jewish donors with specific political agendas.
Even if in Olmert's case it turns out the contributions were not "illegal" from a strict legal standpoint, the phenomenon is still a serious moral stain on Israeli democracy. People who are not Israeli citizens are influencing the outcome of elections.
No other democratic country in the world permits such a situation. Let's ignore the legal aspect for now, and not only because the legal system has failed to deal with the problem. But in terms of the democratic process, it is clear that contributions from foreigners are fundamentally flawed, distort voters' intentions and are plagued with a lack of transparency bordering on corruption.
There is a very good chance that the Kadima primary will determine who will be the next prime minister of Israel. The voting public has the right - the sovereign right - to guarantee that rich foreigners, however well-meaning, whether from New York, London, Los Angeles or Melbourne, will not be partners in our democratic process because of their money. If a candidate chooses to receive donations, it is the public's right to know the identities of the hidden partners in the Israeli democratic process.
It is also clear that without massive public pressure, the candidates will not make such information public. But it is important that the public not let them get away with it. It must be the media's job: In every interview, the press must ask each candidate: "Are you willing to to announce you will not accept foreign contributions? And if you accept them, will you say from who and how much?"
If even only one of the candidates is willing to agree, this would place the rest in a difficult position and would help purify the political air in this country.