Squirming Through Legal Loopholes

If the state comptroller really expects Shimon Peres to return the $320,000 he received from three contributors - he can forget about it. Peres won't give it back, he wouldn't dream of it, and he'll continue to be the favorite candidate for state president. The Israeli public has had enough of politicians tainted by corruption, but only in theory, not in practice.

The comptroller labels the contributions "problematic" and "improper" and says they take advantage of a "legal loophole."

Peres is not alone in the parade of politicians squirming through legal loopholes. Amir Peretz, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Ehud Barak (again), Matan Vilnai and Benjamin Netanyahu are also sidestepping the law. But Peres, who contributed more than any of them to Israel, apparently expects to be rewarded in proportion.

Don't believe any tales from old wives nor old politicians. Anyone who takes handouts from philanthropists becomes their slave. I was there, and I should know. If billionaires Bruce Rappaport of Switzerland, Haim Saban of Los Angeles or Daniel Abraham of Florida ask for a little favor, won't they get special treatment? Would they have to beg the government for money like ordinary citizens and accidental visitors, and stand in line? These lords cast their bread upon the waters, and they know exactly where it goes and why. Nor will they have to wait long to reap their rewards - there's no such thing as a free contribution.

What a coincidence: the international corruption index was also released yesterday. Israel is continuing to slide down the slope and is already in a shameful, dangerous place in the middle, 34, behind Qatar. Is anyone responsible for this deterioration or is there some higher force pushing us down to the bottom? Or perhaps it's those anti-Semites, spreading libel about us as usual.

The comptroller did not recommend indicting the politicians, as the funds were received before the campaigning had begun. Perhaps Judge Lindenstrauss ruled correctly. But perhaps this is his first surrender to those rising up against him.