My Full Disclosure

It can't be said that I am not moving ahead in life. After almost 40 years in the Knesset and the cabinet, I moved to the literary scene, only to have my integrity questioned for the first time in my life. What wasn't found during my time in politics - despite scrupulous efforts to find something - is being found after it. Happy am I, caught red-handed on "conflict of interest." Now I am in good company. I did it. And now I am entitled to view myself as a candidate for prime minister. I'm planning a comeback.

I had no illusions about the literary scene. Wherever there are people, there is deception and animal instincts, personal and political scores to settle, and jealousy is the same jealousy, if not more mortal. Nevertheless they really stooped low this time, to the depths. If the literary and media world were in the public eye the same way that party politics is, whole books would be written - of the worst kind.

Many quarters wanted to jump on the bargain, and that bargain is me: frustrated authors who didn't win first prize; disappointed publishers, newspapers and journalists, jealous of their more successful colleagues; the heads of the sponsoring body, Mifal Hapayis, who have lucked into the chance to settle scores among themselves; and the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, which suddenly evinces an interest not only in the material but also in the intellectual. I could be paranoid - who isn't - but as everyone knows even paranoids have persecutors.

They say I violated a trust, and that I did not comply with guidelines of proper disclosure. And then came the "Maariv investigation" that uncovered my disgrace. What was there to disclose here? What was there to investigate? It's an open secret known to all that my last book was published by Yedioth Books - one must know how to read a jacket flap. I don't think a publisher does an author a favor by publishing their book. On the contrary, the author is doing a kindness to the publisher. At least in my case the publisher earned quite a nice sum off of me and my book. My contacts with the publisher were stated on the appropriate disclosure form three years ago.

This, too, should be known: There is no judge of books who has not written and published books themselves, and every book has a publisher. And there is no judge who does not know authors personally and sometimes even befriends them and even appears with them from time to time at literary evenings. Therefore there is no judge who is not tainted, unless we start collecting judges from off the streets. That's an idea, too.

Not only was my publisher exposed by this investigation, so was my niece, an editor at the same publishing house. It's very serious, and I can only acknowledge my guilt: Rana Verbin really is the daughter of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. I love her, and in my opinion she is a good editor.

In any event, with regard to the arguments for the sentencing hearing, it was my third year serving as chairman of the prize jury, and for the first two years not a single book published by Yedioth Books was chosen. Rana didn't help them. One might imagine that the publisher was frustrated too, but Rana knows me, and as all my friends, relatives and acquaintances are aware, whatever I love I slight.

The family relationship between us is also public knowledge, certainly among critics and editors and publishers. Rana and I have spoken about this publicly more than once, and neither of us knew that there was something to hide or disclose. What can I do, the image of my niece did not come to my mind at the moment when I cast the fateful vote. More intimidating images than she didn't influence me at the moment of decision.

Now, in the eye of the storm and in retrospect, I already know clearly what the obstacle was. It was my self-confidence. I was so sure that my views were untainted, that I didn't see the line of people waiting for their chance for so many years. Finally we found some mud to sling at a known saint, who preaches morality to the world. Innocently I believed that 40 years in public life gives one some kind of credit in the bank of credibility and trust. Fooled again, idiot. Does it not pay to try to be a decent person? That's not a forgone conclusion.