The Bottom Line / Is There Anyone Left Who's Not Corrupt?

Every part of the story on its own seems to be the same old, worn-out thing: appointing cronies, political intrigue, pressure, a case of one hand washing the other.

There is no government ministry, public authority, or even private business that does not have a bit of all those things. But when you put them all together, and see the entire picture that the police presented in the most recent weekly scandal at the Israel Tax Authority (ITA), the only real conclusion is both frightening and earth-shaking: We are a corrupt country, rotten to the core.

And even if only some of the suspicions turn out to be correct, it will not be enough just to replace the head of the tax authority, Jacky Matza, nor to appoint a squeaky clean white knight in his place.

We will be forced to admit that the whole process is rotten, that numerous shady political honchos are involved in a variety of matters of personal corruption, sexual harassment, and who knows what else. And now the tax authority - not even one of the most important law-enforcement bodies, and a foundation of proper government in Israel is immune to corruption.

The sorry fact is that it is also hard to trust the police, which blew the the lid off the story this week in a huge media blitz.

The police are a body whose officers stage pathetic victory celebrations when they finally get their hands on a serial rapist who escaped from their clutches, and whose top brass are personally involved in affairs related to organized crime families such as the Parinyans. And the police force certainly cannot be considered serious or responsible.

The connections between recent events has created a dangerous feeling of helplessness among the public, and the view that "they are all corrupt" is spreading rapidly.

But the problem is that such a feeling could make corruption even more widespread. If the heads of the tax system are just a bunch of corrupt hacks who only serve the high and mighty - and their friends - then why should the little, self-employed guy feel bad about some minor tax evasion?

It is much too early to know how the tax authority affair will end, and we have to remember that all those involved are innocent until proven otherwise, but we must also admit that such supervisory mechanisms as the Revivo Committee, which approves the appointments in the higher echelons of the civil service, are not providing the goods.

In a place where political connections are the only thing that matters - and where such phrases as "positions of personal trust" for certain appointments are the norm - then pressure, political intrigue, and decision-making for the benefit of friends and family at the public's expense are common occurences.

Serious punishment, and stringent and extreme standards for anything related to political appointments - as well as complete protection for whistle-blowers - can reduce the level of corruption.

But in the wake of the series of recent scandals there is a rising, uncontrollable feeling that there is a need for a strong political figure whose battle cry will be fighting corruption and crime.

Someone like Rudy Guiliani who will whip things into shape, just as he did in New York.