Dov Lipman
Member of the 19th Knesset
Featured Post

Aryeh Deri vs. Pete Rose

The defeat of a proposed law barring ex-cons from public office puts Israel in the minor leagues of democracy

In May 1989, Pete Rose was found to have bet on major league baseball games.

On March 17, 1999, Aryeh Deri was found guilty of breach of trust and accepting bribes as Israel’s Interior Minister.

On August 24, 1989, Pete Rose, the player who had the most hits in baseball history, was banned from Major League Baseball for life.

In September 2002, Aryeh Deri entered prison to begin serving his three-year term.

In 1989 and 1992, Pete Rose requested reinstatement into baseball. His appeal was denied.

On February 5, 2013, Aryeh Deri was sworn in again as a member of Knesset, and on March 31, 2015, he was sworn in again as a government minister (Economy Minister) – all after serving 22 months in jail and waiting the required seven years following his prison term.

Pete Rose was banned from baseball, including not being eligible for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame, because he violated the very integrity of the game. Betting on games casts doubts regarding whether players are playing to win or deliberately attempting to lose for the sake of financial gain. The leadership of Major League Baseball determined that a violation of such a cardinal rule which threatens the integrity of the game can only be met with the harshest of consequences: a lifetime ban.

Here, in Israel, corruption among our country’s leadership — and accepting bribes, specifically — threatens the very existence of our state because it raises the possibility that leaders are making decisions based on their own personal gain, and not based on what is best for the nation

The fact that Aryeh Deri can return to a position of leadership despite behavior that threatens our existence shows that we still do not take this kind of abuse of power and its inherent threat seriously enough.

The Yesh Atid party promised to rectify this flaw during the recent election campaign. We promised to pass legislation stating that any Knesset member or minister found guilty of a crime of moral turpitude while in office can never return to public office. (The law would not be retroactive, and Aryeh Deri would retain his ministerial position). Aside from the strong deterrent to prevent corruption before it happens, passage of the law would also send a strong message to the Israeli public: corruption will not be tolerated, and trust between the public and elected officials must always be above suspicion.

MK Yair Lapid submitted that legislation on the first day of the 20th Knesset. The law made its way to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation this past Sunday. The law was rejected – unanimously! On Wednesday, the law came to the Knesset floor where it was rejected, 52-47.

“This is moral bankruptcy of a government unwilling to fight corruption,” Lapid said responding to the rejection of his bill. Indeed, if we are not willing to take the harshest of stands against corrupt leaders, what does that say about the integrity of our government?

The ministers voting against the law explained that it was too broad, and that there needs to be a place for forgiveness. The same voices were heard after Pete Rose publically admitted gambling on baseball during his tenure as a manager, but then asked for forgiveness because, according to his explanation, he never bet as a player on games in which he participated. “Give him a break,” they said; “He deserves a second chance,” and “He apologized and has learned from his mistake.”

Well, a report this week showed that Rose did bet on games he played in. So when Rose was apologizing with such conviction, in reality he was, once again, lying and cheating.

Lapid addressed the point of forgiveness: “There will be those who argue that people who paid their debt to society should be allowed to rebuild their lives. That’s true, of course; but why should they do it in a place where there is the greatest temptation for corruption?”

We are talking about people who were in positions of power and trust, and abused that responsibility simply because of their desire for money. My experience serving in the Knesset, especially on the Finance Committee, showed me just how accessible public funds can be to public officials who are tempted by greed and personal gain. And when those ministers who have been convicted for bribery and fraud return to positions of power and influence, that temptation will surround them once again.

As the Pete Rose story demonstrates, once someone crosses the line and is willing to compromise the rules in order to pocket an extra buck, the temptation can lead them to continue to lie and cheat and never truly be rehabilitated.

Violating the law and breaking the public trust has consequences. In the wake of numerous indictments of public officials on both the local and national level, a very strong message needs to be sent. Leaders must know that if they abuse their position of power for personal gain, they will be banned from public service for life. That is real deterrence.

Major league baseball understands this principle and has taken a stand to protect its integrity and existence.

How can our beloved State hold itself to a lower standard?

About the Author
Dov Lipman was elected to the 19th Knesset in January 2013. He is the author of nine books about Judaism and Israel, and holds rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College and a masters in education from Johns Hopkins University. He has been at the forefront of combating religious extremism in Israel and is a leader in efforts to create Jewish unity both in Israel and around the world. Former MK Lipman is invited to speak on behalf of the Jewish state both in Israel and around the world and serves as a political commentator for i24 News and ILTV. He is the founder and CEO of Yad L'Olim, an NGO that assists and advocates for Olim from around the world.