The Kitchen Moved to the Living Room

State comptroller Eliezer Goldberg, a usually restrained man, appeared to be in turmoil as he said that of all the threats facing the state, government corruption is the worst.

There was something symbolic about the timing of the publication of the State Comptroller's report, four days before Independence Day, just as there was the tone of an angry prophet in the words spoken by retired Justice Eliezer Goldberg as he presented the report to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.

"Government corruption poses the greatest danger of all to the state of Israel, greater than any other danger," he warned, as if he was trying to shake the country as it prepares for the 57th anniversary of its sovereignty, to waken it from its stupefying numbness. Considering the fact that this was the last report Goldberg would file as comptroller, his words were like a testament.

On the eve of the state's entry into a year that is supposed to make a significant change in its history, by withdrawing from Gaza and northern Samaria and thus starting a disengagement from the territories conquered in the Six-Day War; a day after the results of the local elections in the Palestinian territories showed that the Hamas is growing in strength; and in the same week that the Shin Bet and IDF warned about the fragility of Mahmoud Abbas' control, pointing to evidence of the collapse of the cease-fire of recent weeks, the state comptroller was ready to warn of the destruction of public administration and politicization of the civil service.

This was not mere rhetoric; this usually restrained man appeared to be in turmoil as he said that of all the threats facing the state, government corruption is the worst.

The comptroller knows what he's talking about, and first hand. He was on the Supreme Court for 14 years, an excellent observation post from which to learn about the country's manners and its leaders' behavior. Over the last seven years as State Comptroller, he learned to discern the odors of the kitchens in which the government operates. That was also an efficient place from which to observe the way the regime operates. The truth is, Goldberg did not discover anything new, not in the report he published this week, nor in the previous reports he published. The state of Israel knows itself, and is not particularly bothered by the mirror that the comptroller places before it every year.

In recent years, the political kitchens moved to the living room, and the conventions and rules of the game were exposed to all. The public went through an accelerated course of reeducation, and now accepts as self-evident the problematic personal behavior of the prime minister and his sons, the crimes attributed to the ministers, the involvement of dubious families in the centers of power, the bribery with which seats in the Knesset are bought, and the extortion threats made by special-interest groups and narrow-platform political parties to get what they want in the government and Knesset.

At the start of its 58th year of independence, the state of Israel is not asking itself what kind of society it is growing. Goldberg is not revealing minor, marginal problems. He is presenting systematic behavior. His findings are only part of a broader picture that has at its base a disgraceful attitude to the law. Israeli citizens are not law-fearing. The sense of independence (in any case, that of the Jewish majority), comes down to knowing there is nothing to fear, from the police or judges.

The regime ignores international law, and individuals scoff at the municipal laws. The state violates its own laws - see the Sasson report - and entire sectors (Haredim, settlers, Bedouin) imitate it. The underworld draws inspiration and encouragement from the way the authorities in charge of law enforcement - the police, prosecution and courts - ignore the government's own violations of the law.

There is an original Israeli remedy for the illness: the prime minister appoints a lawyer to examine criminal behavior in which he is involved - establishing the illegal outposts - and then ignores the findings; the agriculture minister, who during his term turned the ministry into an employment service for Likud activists, simply announces he had nothing to do with it; the Likud initiates a law that would legitimize the politicization of the public service; and in the Knesset the trend is to choose a state comptroller less diligent than Eliezer Goldberg.