They Crossed the Line

The last twelve months can be symbolized by - the envelope. That humble paper object has become synonymous with corruption and stars directly and indirectly in TheMarker's selection of the 100 most influential people in 2008. Directly, because all too many inches in the paper have been devoted to analyzing envelopes handed to two of the highest officials in the land: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former finance minister Abraham Hirchson. Indirectly, because the entire TheMarker 100 influential persons project is colored by the war on corruption.

This year's choices were not based on mere assessments as to the relative clout of one person or another, though such assessments were made. For example, we considered the rising power of the banks due to the credit crunch in the markets. No: the decisions this time were based on principles, stemming from a fear for Israel's fate because of the culture of flawed governance that has developed, the indifference of the politicians to the need for absolute integrity when they become leaders - and the cultural, economic and ethical implications of that insensitivity.

The overt struggle with the Supreme Court during Olmert's term, the constant disputes with the state comptroller, the dozens of cases and scandals that were and still are being investigated - all these make the current government the most corrupt and delusional in Israel's history.

Corruption suspicions against Ariel Sharon were relegated to the back burner, deliberately - by investigations being shelved, and because of the disengagement from Gaza, not to mention his Sharon's tragic exit from the public scene.

The suspicions against Olmert may be similar and are no worse, but his unrelenting battle with the justice system has turned him into a dangerous figure, a man whose power serves him in confrontations that are ostensibly over principles - but are actually personal.

The Olmert-Friedman-Ramon triangle will be etched on the public memory as one of the more sordid in Israeli public history (it is even natural and symbolic that the Katsav affair also blew up at the same historic moment).

Most of Israel's citizens are hard-working people who earn a living honestly - they deserve better.

They deserve justice ministers who do not force kisses on female soldiers. They deserve justice ministers who are not trying to bring down the Supreme Court and the institution of the attorney general. They deserve prime ministers and finance ministers who don't stuff their pockets with cash-filled envelopes.

Anyone who wishes to be chosen for public office should be "chosen" in the biblical sense of the word; should be deserving of the people's trust and the ballots of the honest people who voted for him.

The people cited above violated the duty of their loyalty to the public. They forgot their duty to serve, and crossed the line. They behaved as though they were more important than the position they serve.

All should have been sent packing by the public, to serve in other positions in the private sector. In any case they are more qualified to do things for their home court than for us.