A Nation of Fuads

The authorities, one and all, bow their heads before the nepotism, the corruption and the collapse of all good standards of governance in Israel.

"I'm coordinated with the union, and only with it. We prepare the plan together. I trust them to promote any move that's in the company's best interest. This is a very responsible group of people who know that the company is their source of livelihood. This is a public with mutual guarantees, with a strong feeling of togetherness, and with pride in brotherhood."

The treasury claims that you're helping workers fight reforms to attract voters ahead of the Labor primaries.

"Oh, enough of that garbage. That's a lie and it hurts my feelings." - July 2005, National Infrastructures Minister Benjamin "Fuad" Ben-Eliezer, in an interview with Ynet about reforms and efficiency measures at the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC).

Gracious, we do have a sensitive infrastructures minister, not only in respect to the media's assertions, but also when it comes to people's problems. The report the state comptroller published last week exposed the way Israel is governed. While Minister Ben-Eliezer was supposed to be pushing reform at the national power utility, he was occupied with organizing jobs for party hacks. During 2005 and 2006 Fuad himself, or his office, contacted the IEC at least 100 times asking to arrange jobs, raises, promotions or other perks for Fuad's friends, mainly people who belonged to the Labor Party central committee, or their cronies.

Take the story of Z., who started work at the IEC in April 2005. Happily for him, he belonged to the Labor central committee and chaired one of the party's branches as well. In the form hiring Z,. the IEC Human Resources manager noted: "Associated with the infrastructures minister".

Or take the case of H., also a Labor central committee member who also once served as the minister's aide and as a deputy mayor. He started work at the IEC in September 2005. On his resume, the utility's Logistics and Assets manager wrote, "Our minister requests that you see if you can help. Maybe a special contract or agreement for a time."

Another document states that H. was hired at the directive of the CEO at the time, Jacob Razon. The logistics chief told the state comptroller that Razon had told him that the minister's bureau had contacted him on the matter.

The system is simple, open, familiar. The minister in charge of spearheading reform at the IEC, which is one of the most corrupt bodies in Israel, a gigantic business shot through with rot that taxes every citizen in the land, literally and figuratively, abuses his status to arrange jobs for the boys.

The average Israeli at home sits there watching Fuad's antics over the year on TV, and wonders, why the devil is that man the ministry of infrastructures or security or housing? Easy one: Because Fuad has the touch in the party center. Because Fuad arranges things for the Arab sector, because Fuad does it best, because the moment Fuad has control over the valves in some ministry, he knows where to stream the state's assets.

Nobody cares about all this, actually. The state comptroller published his report, the press ran some headlines about Fuad the next day, but nobody complained to the police, the attorney general didn't twitch, no Knesset member arose to demand explanations, and the Fuads of Israel can roll on unhindered.

Four years ago the state comptroller revealed the true dimensions of nepotism at the IEC. Each and every arm of that body, which controls assets worth billions of shekels and supplies complex power services to every man, woman and company in Israel, is riddled with the cancer of nepotism.

The IEC is run like a state within a state, but its leaders know that the chiefs of the uber-state in which they sit are just as corrupt and flabby. The state-comptroller report published last week shows that of 1,315 employees hired since the report on nepotism, 393 - 30 percent - have relatives at the company.

Meaning: After the raging nepotism was exposed and the IEC vowed to purge itself of the disease, it is business as usual. The IEC doesn't belong to the taxpayers but to a vicious gang that has taken control and hands out the spoils to cronies.

They do not cavil at bamboozling the IEC board and Government Companies Authority, either. In August 2006, the Human Resources manager gave the IEC chief executive a document (so the CEO could prepare a report for the GCA), stating that 1,496 appointments at the company were of relatives. But the state comptroller says that in reality, the number of nepotistic appointments was double that: 3,551. The company replied that those were the figures it had at the time.

Last week the comptroller revealed that the IEC is one of many in the public sector. The cancer of nepotism rules at most of the government monopolies, where 16 percent to 44 percent of employees are relatives of other employees.

The comptroller reports and nobody twitches. Bleeding-heart parliamentarians who spend all their time scrambling for headlines do nothing. Billions of shekels are distributed like booty among cronies, tens of thousands of cushy jobs are blocked off to youngsters not born to the right famiglia, and a Mafia-like culture is spreading throughout the economy. Yet our elected representatives are silent.

No wonder. The "caring" of too many Knesset members begins and ends with a press release, demanding more budgets for the poor or the termination of structural reforms. It doesn't cost them a penny personally and gets them precious inches in the papers. But when it comes to their personal pocket, their chance of advancing in politics, they forget their "social" values and toe the corrupt line. They know that the more corrupt the corporate union, the more nepotism there is, the more power the union will wield at the party central committee.

What about the ministers in charge? They happily adopt the corrupt norms and appoint their buddies to sweetheart jobs from the army, reserves, the party or any other inappropriate source.

What about the courts? Good question. Perhaps the comptroller should look into how interns are chosen for the choicest positions at the Supreme Court, and how many of these interns over the years were kinfolk of the good justices. Then we will have a more complete picture of why the authorities, one and all, bow their heads before the nepotism, the corruption and the collapse of all good standards of governance in Israel.