Israel Slips to 35th Place in Global Corruption Index

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a mask, stands inside the courtroom as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court May 24, 2020
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a mask, stands inside the courtroom as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court May 24, 2020Credit: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

Israel’s global reputation on public corruption has now slipped for the third year in a row, from 34th to 35th place, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index released on Thursday.

In the new rankings, Israel scored 60 points on a scale of 100, a score also shared by Slovenia, Latvia, the sultanate of Brunei in southeast Asia and Botswana in southern Africa. The new country rankings, which relate to the situation prevailing in 2020, are based on the perceptions of experts and business people from around the world.

Among the countries scoring better than Israel were the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Chile, Barbados and Bhutan. Israel’s lowest score in the annual rankings came in 2011, but it then recovered, climbing to the 28th spot in 2016. It has slipped in the years since, however.

This year’s report comes as the evidentiary phase of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust is about to begin. He denies any wrongdoing.

The chairwoman of Transparency International’s Israeli affiliate, retired Judge Nili Arad, expressed particular concern about Israel’s ranking in a year during which the country was responsing to the coronavirus outbreak. A lack of transparency in government operations during the pandemic creates mistrust and unwillingness to cooperate on the public’s part, she said.

This comes “as we witness violations of democratic principles, in circumstances in which leaders are suspected of criminal conduct, in an atmosphere of ongoing incitement against the gatekeepers of the judicial system and against the media,” she added.

Denmark and New Zealand continued to top the Corruption Perceptions Index, with 88 points, while Syria, Somalia and South Sudan are still at the bottom. More than two-thirds of the countries scored below 50.

Among the criteria used in the country rankings are perceptions regarding bribery, diversion of public funds, the use of officials of public office for private gain and the ability of governments to contain corruption.

The score of the United States slipped to 67 points from 69 in 2019, which Transparency International attributed in part to “serious departures” from democratic norms during the final year of the Trump administration. The Berlin-based organization also cited weak oversight in the United States of the country’s $1 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Referring to alleged conflicts of interest and abuse of office at the highest level in the United States, the corruption perceptions report described what it called President Trump’s attempts to pressure election officials and incite violence to change certified vote counts as “among the most serious departures from ethical democratic practice.”

Reuters contributed to this report.