How are we not ashamed?

Aryeh Deri, the former interior minister who went to jail for abusing his office is returning to the scene of his crimes, this time with the blessing of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Deri, who was convicted of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in 2000 is expected to be voted back into the interior ministry this week by Netanyahu’s cabinet. While it is a clear sign of the failure of Israel’s political system that Deri was allowed to return to the Knesset after his release from prison, allowing him to return to the scene of his crimes is just outright embarrassing.

Supporters will argue that Deri served his time and because of his conviction was barred from public life for seven years, and under Israeli law they would be correct. However, this fact is just another example of how dysfunctional and corrupt the system of government really is. Allowing Deri to return to the post of Minister of Interior is akin to allowing a convicted pedophile to teach a kindergarten class, it is an outrage and yet few here seem to care.

In most Western countries this would not be possible under the law, and if it were, the cries of outrage from their citizenry would be so vocal that it could never happen. The Israeli citizenry is used to corruption from their leaders; in fact they have come to expect it and oftentimes joke about it. In a culture that rewards and oftentimes celebrates cronyism, Israel has become a country in which ones success is often based on the relationships they have – the more powerful the connection, the greater the prospect for success is. They even have a word for it called “protectzia,” and most Israelis with any form of protectzia will boast of having it. Even with something as basic as getting a driver’s license, those who have connections in the motor vehicle department tend to have an easier time acquiring one than those that follow the rules.

The Haredi factions in the Knesset are notorious for selling their loyalties when it comes time to forming a new government. There is no consistency when it comes to the platforms they choose to support from one administration to the next; it is literally a matter of who they can extort more from. The fact that they sat in the opposition in the previous administration had more to do with their votes not being needed to form a coalition than anyone actually wanting them involved. However, when they are needed to form a coalition, they exact a price that negatively affects the majority and throws much of the progress made in the previous administration out the window. Handing the reigns of such an important post as interior ministry over to a Haredi faction is a step backwards for Israel as it will strengthen the grip over civil life that this minority has within the country. Handing the reigns back to a criminal like Deri is adding insult to injury.

The relative silence on this issue is humiliating to the country, not only on the world stage but here at home itself. How can a nation be so complacent as to allow a man who used his position in government to enrich himself and his cronies back into the government? How can a nation be so complacent as to give a bank robber the new combination to the safe? The fact that the system even allows for this is just wrong which is why the system must be changed. If Israeli’s will not care enough about the way they are governed, there needs to be a system in place that will care for them and make sure corruption is not encouraged or rewarded as it is under the present system.

Unfortunately, there are too few voices loud enough to make something as drastic as this happen. Perhaps if they make a bumper sticker about it then people will care.

About the Author
Jay Engelmayer is a 49 year old husband and father of four. Professionally his focus has been digital marketing and business development for commercial products. A proud and unapologetic American-Israeli Zionist, he enjoys cooking and yelling at television screens. Some consider him argumentative in nature, although he prefers "purposeful cynic" when describing his disposition. Living in Israel, he hails from New York City and is glad he left before it became the 1970's redux it is today.
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