If Nasrallah Were Really Smart

Knesset member Avigdor Yitzhaki is suspected of involvement in massive tax evasion. Yitzhaki, an accountant by profession, is suspected of helping a couple, his friends, to dodge NIS 3.5 million in tax by filing falsified tax returns.

Yitzhaki isn't just another parliamentarian: he served in the past as director-general of the prime minister's office, at the start of Ariel Sharon's term in that office. He is also chairman of the coalition and a senior member of Kadima, which is the ruling party in power.

Suspicions that grave against one of the highest-ranking parliamentarians in the ruling party would shake the foundations in any western democracy, but not in Israel. The only place the suspicions against Yitzhaki won press attention was the business pages; the broader public hardly noticed.

One could say that the public's attention has been distracted by the war. Or one could suggest that the public barely noticed because grave suspicions about a Knesset member are becoming the rule, not the exception.

Let's do a quick count. Yitzhaki, the No. 1 man in Kadima, is suspected of grave tax fraud. Tzachi Hanegbi, the No. 2 Kadima personality and chairman of the Knesset's foreign affairs and security committee, faces charges over making political appointments at the Environment Ministry when he was minister there.

Ruhama Avraham and Eli Aflalo, two ex-Likud members who joined Kadima, flew abroad at the expense of the agricultural produce exports company Agrexco. Accepting tickets and accommodation at a cost of thousands of dollars did not inspire them to recuse themselves from discussing issues regarding Agrexco in the Knesset. The prosecution is still considering its position on that affair.

That isn't the only dubious foreign jaunt in Kadima history. Ministers Shimon Peres and Haim Ramon, together with Dalia Itzik - today the Knesset speaker, flew abroad two years ago at the expense of millionaire Aharon Frankel, who paid for them to come to his wedding. The distinguished parliamentarians forgot they aren't allowed to accept presents and were later astonished when the Knesset Ethics Committee demanded they repay Frankel. Justice Minister Ramon refuses to return the money to this day, but he agreed to donate the equivalent sum to charity.

Apropos Ramon, the minister is also under investigation for alleged sexual harassment. Peres is still under investigation by the State Comptroller about possible illegal donations to his Labor campaign.

More? Let us not forget Kadima leader Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, who has been looked at countless times by the State Comptroller about his acquisition and sale of a house in Jerusalem, which he did when serving as mayor of that city. Claims have been made that the sellers received sweetheart terms from the city. There have also been complaints about his collection of fine pens, received as gifts over the years.

Altogether eight of Kadima members, including the prime minister, are suspects in ethical or criminal cases. That means 27% of the leading party of Israel may be rotten.

It is probably a world record and it is especially grating given Kadima's pretensions when running for Knesset, which are included in the government's guidelines. The fifth social guideline, the one after (4) narrowing social gaps and before (6) respecting government institutions, first and foremost the Knesset and the Supreme Court - is, "The government shall fifth corruption and unethical conduct throughout all echelons of society in Israel, mainly in the governmental and public administration system."

When 27% of its members in conflict of interest vis a vis the law, one has to wonder if Kadima has the willpower to fulfill its promise.

And if it doesn't, one has to wonder about the wisdom that Hassan Nasrallah is said to have. Instead of troubling himself to attack Israel with long-term range missiles, all he had to do is leave us to stew. Israel seems doomed to rot from the inside out: at least that looks a lot more likely than Hizbullah winning the war.