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Occupation Is the Seed of Corruption

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Palestinian women walk along Israel's separation barrier from the Palestinian side near the West Bank village of Dura, October 30, 2019.
Palestinian women walk along Israel's separation barrier from the Palestinian side near the West Bank village of Dura, October 30, 2019.Credit: AFP

In 1992 the five Knesset members of Hadash and Ra’am (whose voters were mostly Arabs) were enough to allow Yitzhak Rabin to form a government. Now, even the 13 MKs of the Joint List aren’t enough for Benny Gantz.

In the neighboring Arab world – the jungle, as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak calls it – they are looking at the villa’s living room and can’t believe their eyes. While in the Arab states – and, of course, in Iran – those bravely demonstrating to clean out the government stables are paying with their lives or with years in prison, the masters of the villa here, who enjoy the privilege of sending corrupt leaders into oblivion by elections, have overwhelmingly failed, in election after election, to remove those suspected of corruption through the ballot box.

Here we have a man with a black cloud of corruption hovering over him who, even after being indicted, has 55 MKs in his pocket. To this disciplined bloc, the dream of every dictator, one can add the eight MKs of Yisrael Beiteinu, unless there’s someone who will claim that Avigdor Lieberman is the white knight of the rule of law.

It’s not just Benjamin Netanyahu; Shas leader, Arye Dery, who was convicted in the past and now also faces fraud allegations, got nine seats, after only a few years ago his party was on the verge of extinction. That seems to be the rule of thumb: The more corrupt you are, combined with chutzpah, of course, the more popular you are. The job of cleaning the stables is imposed on the law abiding. This is truly democracy for the poor.

That’s why we must tip our hat to the legal system, whose members faced down a well-oiled incitement campaign. They are the real fighters when it comes to preserving proper government. But forgive me for spoiling the party; it’s important to remember that the judicial system is what brought the bear into the vineyard of all of us, as the Arabic saying goes. After all, what’s 700,000 shekels (around $200,000) – the cost of the gifts Netanyahu allegedly took over several years – compared to the 60 million shekels, for example, that the evacuees of Netiv Ha’avot got to agree to leave an illegal outpost (i.e., a colony, as if there are legal colonies).

The judicial system has actually missed the boat. Every settler can do almost whatever he chooses in the occupied territories, and the legal system is there to issue administrative detention orders – against Palestinians. And if a settler feels as if he can do almost anything throughout the occupied territories, why shouldn’t he feel that way when he comes to Tel Aviv as well?

It started within Israel, though. The Israeli Jew, under a policy of discrimination against Arabs, felt deep inside like he was special. Moreover, this policy has recently become law (the nation-state law). The ideological basis for corruption is preferring one person over his fellow.

In the territories this is more serious, of course, and it’s been going on for 50 years – in a legal facade whose distorted foundations were laid by Justice Meir Shamgar, who was then the military advocate-general. That’s why I can’t understand what mistake Netanyahu made. He was simply implementing a policy that the judicial system has approved, or at least ignores: Seize lands that don’t belong to you, torch others’ orchards, sic your dogs on flocks to maim or even kill, while the system remains silent. In Netanyahu’s favor we can say that he never sent any dogs to maul the goats of Palestinians, yet despite this only he has to suffer from the long arm of the law.

May God have mercy, Justice Shamgar. It was he who sowed the spirit of calamity in the occupied territories, and now all the residents of the State of Israel are reaping only the whirlwind.