Corruption and Integrity

It’s looking grim for Bibi now that Ari Harow has agreed to turn state’s evidence. As the Times of Israel of August 4 reports, ‘Ari Harow, a former chief of staff and aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, signed a deal on Friday to turn state’s witness as part of ongoing investigations into alleged corruption by Israel’s premier. According to a statement from the Israel Police, Harow is expected to receive six months of community service and a NIS 700,000 fine ($193,000) on breach of trust charges in exchange for his testimony against his former boss.’

The article notes, ‘Harow is reportedly willing to provide information in both probes, having served as chief of staff during the time of the alleged deal with Mozes and while Netanyahu is said to have received gifts worth thousands of shekels.’ The deal with Mozes was, ‘an illicit quid pro quo deal that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, through Knesset legislation in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.’

It’s not just Bibi, it’s a family affair. The August 7 issue of the Jerusalem Post reports, ‘Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit will indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, for diverting public money for private use, Channel 2 reported on Monday. Sara Netanyahu is suspected of fraud and breach of trust related to misuse of public funds to meet her private housekeeping expenses. It is estimated that the four felonies of which she is suspected cost hundreds of thousands of shekels in state funds.’ I wonder – if indicted, will Sara turn state’s evidence?

There are two aspects to Netanyahu’s failures – (1) actual corruption and (2) a willingness to say anything to please his right wing political base.

As Yaakov Katz writes in the August 4 issue of the Jerusalem Post, ‘Ever since, and in light of polls that show a sharp drop in his approval ratings, Netanyahu is on a mission to rebuild his right wing voter base. Zigzagging on issues? Who cares. The ends justify the means.

The first sign was his sudden support for the controversial “greater Jerusalem bill” that would add the settlements of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Betar Illit, Givat Ze’ev and Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, creating a greater metropolitan area and, in effect, annexing those settlements. This was amusing, since just a few weeks earlier the same Netanyahu had blocked legislation aimed at creating a special majority to divide Jerusalem in a future peace deal.

Next was an announcement expressing his desire to close the Israeli offices of Al Jazeera, a move that is ethically questionable for a democracy, and one that would anyhow require passing legislation in the Knesset. Then came his announcement that he favors the death penalty for the terrorist who murdered three members of the Salomon family in Halamish. Finally, his office issued a press release just minutes after the verdict in the Elor Azaria case stating that he supports a pardon.

The article also notes, ‘‘To top it off, there were the photos and videos Netanyahu released from his conversations and meetings with Ziv, the security guard who shot and killed two Jordanians in self-defense in Amman last week. Ties with Jordan? Not as important as showing that his decision to remove the metal detectors brought Ziv home.’ What exactly happened in Amman still remains unclear, but releasing those photos served only one purpose: political gain. Everything else is secondary.’

It’s nice to see honest criticism of Bibi in the right wing Jerusalem Post. Let’s hope that Yaakov Katz does not turn out to be a shill for Naftali Bennett, another sleazy right wing politician. Katz was an adviser to Bennett before taking over as editor at the Jerusalem Post.

It’s even nicer to see praise of a right wing politician in Haaretz. Yossi Verter, who writes a weekly (fun to read) anti-Bibi diatribe is no friend of the right wing. Yet, in an August 24 article, he sings the praises of MK Yehuda Glick – an intrepid climber of the Temple Mount who was shot and almost killed by an Islamic Jihad member Moataz Hejazi. In spite of Glick’s views on the Temple Mount, Verter finds much to admire.

Verter writes, ‘In October 2015, this column reported Netanyahu’s objections to the redheaded MK. The spirit of what I wrote was empathetic to the prime minister’s concerns. “Glick is another example of the margins becoming the center, the zany and the extreme becoming the mainstream, the outcast and the rejected undergoing rehabilitation,” I noted. The time has come to express contrition. Those remarks did an injustice to Glick. In his year-plus in the Knesset, he, along with fellow party member MK Benny Begin, has shown himself to be a beacon of integrity, liberalism and morality, and in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, to be truly courageous.

He sided with investigative journalist Ilana Dayan in the wake of a scurrilous blast against her from the Prime Minister’s Bureau; condemned the public lynch perpetrated against the feminist Women of the Wall group; opposed the muezzin law, which was born in sin – namely, out of the desire of the residents of a certain mansion in Caesarea (the “apartment,” as Netanyahu calls it) to enjoy their Sabbath sleep undisturbed; and he spoke out against Elor Aazria (the “Hebron shooter”) a number of times.”

Unfortunately, integrity is in short supply in the Knesset and particularly in the Likud coalition. Israeli newspaper headlines of August 7 and 8 blare (1) Ex-deputy minister, other Yisrael Beytenu officials, indicted in massive graft case (2) Netanyahu’s wife seen close to being charged over expense scandals (3) Interior Minister Deri and wife questioned again in graft probe and (4) Ganor to provide recordings and texts implicating officials in bribery. If more Israeli politicians had the moral values of Benny Begin and Yehuda Glick, Israel would be far healthier today then it is.

It is particularly painful that the culture of corruption is pervasive in the leadership of the religious community. Two chief rabbis have been sentenced for corruption. The head of a religious party, Arye Deri, has done time for corruption and is under investigation again on charges of corruption. If the study of Torah does not internalize moral values, something is rotten in our educational system and in our community.

Instead of worrying about others who pray at the Kotel, the religious community should be doing some self examination. Consider the shameful behavior of the Liba Center activists at the Kotel. I was struck by the similarity of their behavior to the Islamic Murabatat – a group of women who verbally abuse and harass Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount.

The Liba Center activists are described by Amanda Borschel-Dan in a July 24 Times of Israel article. She writes, ‘Two large groups of Jews at diametric odds over the fate of Jewish prayer at the Western Wall gathered at the holy site Monday morning to mark the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av, when tradition holds both the First and Second Temples were destroyed for a roster of reasons, including a lack of unity. The Women of the Wall, which pushes for egalitarian prayer rights {editor’s note -the Women of the Wall are not an egalitarian prayer group, they are a womens’ prayer group} at the shrine, held its monthly prayer session while nearby, a group of grassroots Liba Center activists bent on protecting what they say is the traditional Jewish character of the site, gathered under the banner of “Safeguarding the Holiness of the Western Wall.”

The article notes, ‘Women of the Wall said its much smaller group of 118 participants were “attacked verbally, vocally and physically,” while its 118 supporters conducted the Rosh Hodesh Av service. In addition to a near miss of a thrown water bottle, the group claims that masked women and girls “whistled and shouted to silence WOW voices, spitting and cursing.” Additionally, groups of men catcalled and shouted slogans to drown out prayer, including, “Reform are worse than ISIS.”’

About the Author
Richard Chasman, 1934-2018, was a member of the Modern Orthodox community in Chicago. Professionally, he was a theoretical nuclear physicist. Richard, who described his perspective as "centrist," wrote a newsletter for more than 20 years called "Chovevai Tsion of Chicago," on subjects of interest to the Modern Orthodox community.
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