Not a Banana Republic

Those who voted for MK Inbal Gavrieli need not be surprised that she is exploiting her parliamentary immunity.

Those who voted for MK Inbal Gavrieli need not be surprised that she is exploiting her parliamentary immunity. Those who looked askance at her family connections should not have voted for her in the first place. She herself is not suspected of committing any offense, nor is she the one who invented the abuse of parliamentary immunity. People more eminent than she is, such as the Sharon family, invoked their immunity to prevent the police from conducting a search at Sycamore Ranch. And with nine representatives of the people in the outgoing Knesset under police investigation, the smells emanating from the perfumery called the 16th Knesset don't exactly have their origin in French perfume.

True, the suggestion made by retired Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, which was broadcast on the radio - "Don't vote for corrupt leaders" - cries out to the heavens but is not so simple to carry out. In a country that does not have regional elections, it is difficult to snap up a corrupt individual and remove him from the political arena. In any event, what she is implying is that we need to create norms to ensure that the political bodies themselves will spew out the corrupt.

This week the Labor Party leadership launched a concentrated offensive against Kadima as a corrupt party, which will introduce a banana republic regime. Amir Peretz said, "The connection between capital and government [in Kadima] constitutes one of the greatest dangers facing Israel." Opening an election campaign with this issue was a mistake. Not least because in the house of the hanged man one doesn't talk about rope, and also because the party that was kicked out of power in 1977 under the slogan "We're fed up with your corruption" was Labor itself, which turned the perks of power to its own uses. This used to be called proteksia (connections) and the functionaries themselves described their corrupt practices as activity on behalf of the party. Back then the Gavrieli family wasn't hovering around; it was the Mentesh family. Until one day a brave young attorney general named Aharon Barak named names and opened investigations into the eminent. One cabinet minister committed suicide, a designated governor of the Bank of Israel was arrested, and a prime minister decided to resign.

Netanyahu recently rejected a proposal to focus the Likud campaign on the corruption issue, for fear the image of corruption would boomerang on him. He preferred to focus on "annulling" the poverty of children that he himself caused. The Likud strategists did some research and discovered that the public is not very concerned about the subject of corruption. The latest poll about which topic will most influence your vote came up with the following results: the political-security issue, 32.7 percent; the social-economic issue, 27.6 percent; education, 16.2 percent; corruption and integrity, 9.9 pe rcent. What in 1977 was in first place has of late dropped to almost last place. Has the public had its fill of the corruption issue or has it just become habituated to it?

Pollster Mina Tzemach says her focus groups showed that the public feels that when it comes to public integrity, the stables are in the process of being cleaned.

The Israeli media plays no small part in exposing acts of corruption. A few months ago the daily Ma'ariv ran a campaign on the subject of corruption under the headline "Where's the shame?" At the same time, the paper's editor, Amnon Dankner, says that there is no corruption here in the same sense or on the same scale as in South America. Corruption in Israel exists at the local levels, in public tenders and the like, in which all is rotten. "We do not have corrupt governments or state decision that were bought with money." The public is right to place the termination of the occupation and the existential and social issue at the top of its considerations and has lowered the corruption issue to the bottom of the agenda.

This tendency is also visible in the reshuffle in the political arena - the next Knesset will be of higher quality; it will have more academics, more non-professional politicians, fewer functionaries who have criminal suspicions hovering over them. In his first television appearance as prime minister, on Nissim Mishal's current events program, Olmert looked more like someone suffering from constipation than like "the Mexican general Castanetas," as the old song goes. Israel never was and never will be a banana republic.