Floating Voter / How a Politician Loses His Freedom

This column will open as usual with a scoop: when rumors spread of my impending retirement from politics, a number of well-intentioned people rushed to try to dissuade me. They proposed an alternative: maybe we should establish a list of our own. It would be the Israeli education party, all supporters of education would be gathered to it, and you could decide who its Knesset candidates would be.

One friend even checked on arrangements for party registration, and found that it required a payment of only NIS 70,000.

Not for a moment did I seriously consider establishing a new party. That was all I needed, that was all our party-saturated political system needed. I decided to retire, and retire I would. But, I added, where would I get NIS 70,000? And that would only be the beginning. I would have to go back again from door to door and beg for more contributions. I have no idea how that is done, but I have a clear idea what it means: from the moment the lord bestows of his generosity, the politician loses his freedom. That's what it means.

The State Comptroller has just made public the list of contributors to the candidates for the Labor and Likud primaries. They're all there, in a list, on this side and that. Silvan Shalom next to Amir Peretz, Matan Vilnai alongside Benjamin Netanyahu. And Shimon Peres, the biggest fund-raiser of them all.

Some take comfort in the fact that the contributions are not usually very great; only a few tens of thousands of shekels in most cases. To those who take comfort and those who comfort, let it be said: you may not be taking into consideration that our politicians can be bought for a relatively low price. You may not realize that even a small contribution can produce a high yield. What will the accepter of the contribution say to the donor tomorrow when the latter asks for a meeting, and the merest favor?

"Listen: just between the two of us, you don't deserve anything because your contribution was too small." Is that what he will tell him? He won't leave the door open for a contribution the next time around? And $100,000 given by one donor to one Shimon Peres - is that such a paltry sum that it doesn't deserve to have a column written about it?

These are probably not actual contraventions of the law on election financing. There is no doubt that they are a case of "cast thy bread upon the water" which always raises the suspicion of bribery.

All these contributions are more testimony to the state of Israeli politics.

It is entirely about greed and tricks and festering sores.

Doctor, our politics is sick; why don't you issue regular reports about it's health? Or alternatively, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss should be the one to publish the complete diagnosis, and report to us what he believes are the immediate risks, its chances of recovery and return to health.

"Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days" - my main contention against those who give and those who receive is this: not after many days, but much sooner, and not only bread, but a great deal of cake as well.