All According to Law

Tycoons may love their country, but they may love their money more.

Don't fall from the couch should it turn out that the boats docked in Iranian ports with government authorization. After all, there's never anything new under the sun in the Persian Gulf. Either in the guise of official Israel itself, or via some emissary, the state has always done business with rogue regimes in violation of international sanctions. It has bought and sold items, including its own soul. Keeping company with lepers does not bother us.

It's all done according to law, and in the name of security. Don't believe that the big sharks operate as goldfish, as harmless offenders of the law. These are heavy, reputable people for whom it is unfitting and unprofitable to try to squeeze through small holes in the netting; cloaked by robes of security, from head to toe, they are impervious to the sterilizing light of the sun.

Ofer  Brothers - Ofer Vaknin
Ofer Vaknin

On the pages of this newspaper, Yossi Melman frequently warns of breaches, and nobody in Jerusalem is prepared to offer excuses for them. State secrets are files shrouded by darkness, where lies and silences are kept. Many such secrets, and such keepers of secrets, are connected to family business dealings, including those of the Ofer brothers. Secrets travel from one governing family to another, and all the families are committed to keeping the secrets, since we are governed by one interlocked directorate. Anyone who isn't invited to the wedding in the middle of the forest, and who misses the opulent canopy and ceremony, is lost. We would like to pose a question relating to what all this fuss is about.

Whether officials in the Prime Minister's Office knew anything or not, the rules of the underworld are clear to all: If you are caught, you don't turn anyone in; and everyone looks after himself. Israeli eyes open and close according to whatever suits their fancy; and what these eyes discern about others are not in the field of vision when it comes to Jews. I wouldn't want to attribute this ugly character to Jews, lest I be contaminated with a trace of Judeophobia, but Jewish men sometimes have trouble resisting the temptation of pointing out the double standards.

If you follow the money, you'll find that the trail leads to other illicit harbors. It will turn out that not only the outstretched arms of one family concern had its fingers in fraudulent commerce. Other groups and individuals have their paws in it. And it's all done under the law, as though to prove that a porous law is the best refuge for its transgressors. It's easier to guard such a law than it is to protect the public trust.

A month ago, another open secret became manifest: The upper economic echelon pays less taxes. Due to the help of tax consultants and tax shelters and tax planners, with the accompaniment of benefits and grants proffered from all sides, the brunt of the tax burden falls on the lowest end of the social totem pole; everything is stood upside down, and it's all according to law.

Miki Rosenthal, it turns out, is an unimaginative journalist, and his exposure of the "shakshuka system" did not go any further than turning over one egg in a small frying pan. And these magnates seek glory by offering as largesse small change, while keeping the real share of the wealth to themselves. The magnates bring us much needed charity by, among other things, supporting hospitals, because one could really get a heart attack from paying attention to the lack of equality here, which has no counterpart in developed countries.

Is it a coincidence that governments of western countries have demanded that Swiss banks remove the secrecy of accounts in their vaults, whereas the government of Israel has refrained up to now from issuing such a demand?

Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me state for the record: I am certain that the tycoons are bigger patriots than I am myself; everyone loves our people and land. But there are other things they love, with the backing of the law: oil, for example, which adds a good smell to money. When it is sniffed too often, it scrambles the radar screen and navigation systems.