Looking for an Honest Israeli Politician

Sometimes I feel like Diogenes, the ancient Greek philosopher who famously carried a lantern around in the daytime looking for an honest man.

This is what I felt like today as I read about the astounding number of Israeli politicians that are being accused of corruption. FromJTA:

Israeli police have detained 30 senior officials accused of corruption, including Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum.


The officials, who where detained Wednesday morning after a yearlong investigation, also include a former government minister and senior officials in government ministries, in addition to mayors, heads of NGOs, union chiefs and officers in government corporations. Documents and computers were also confiscated from the officials.


Kirshenbaum is a member of the right-wing Israel Beiteinu party, which dismissed the charges as a “witch hunt,” according to the Times of Israel.


The officials are accused of accepting bribes and illegally funneling funds to NGOs, according to reports. In exchange, the NGOs allegedly gave jobs to people close to the officials.

The corruption charges don’t end there. From the Times of Israel:

A Likud comptroller disqualified Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from running for the party’s leadership primary next week, in a move that could imperil the prime minister’s chances of competing for another term…


Comptroller Shai Galili cited Netanyahu’s alleged misuse of party funds and other property to advance his candidacy in disqualifying him from the primary.

All those accused have denied any wrong doing. (…big surprise!) For what it’s worth I find it unlikely that PM Netanyahu will in the end be disqualified. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. But if he is, the new election could change everything. It will definitely put into question who will be the next prime minister; which party will control the agenda and new Kenesset; and whether the Charedi parties will be in the new coalition. It is very likely that the new Kenesset will look nothing like the current one.

This is certainly not the first time an Israeli politician has been accused of corruption. In fact it seems like corruption almost defines Israel’s political landscape.  30 members of one party?! A powerful one at that?! Let us not forget that that party’s leader was Israel’s foreign minister had his own battle with corruption charges (He was exonerated).

Lest anyone think that there are no religious politicians that would ever dream of taking bribes, let us not forget that the last Charedi mayor of Jerusalem was convicted of exactly that. As was the Charedi Chairman of the Sephardi Shas Party who actually served time in prison. And then there was the current prime ministers predecessor. He too was convicted of corruption.

Even Chief Rabbis are not exempt. The recent past Ashkenazi  Chief rabbi is under investigation for corruption too.

It almost seems like when it comes to Israeli politicians, they should be presumed guilty until proven innocent.

This is one huge desecration of God’s name. It doesn’t matter that most of the corruption charges are against non religious Jews. The fact that there are any religious Jews being accused of corruption at all is by itself a Chilul HaShem.

But even if none of them were observant, the Chilul HaShem is still there. Because what the world sees is that the Jewish people are a corrupt people. As demonstrated time and again in the headlines. That is the image – even as most Israelis don’t have a corrupt bone in their body. They are not the ones in the news. The politicians are.

I should add that the current corruption charges are just that: charges. Nothing has been proven yet. And it is also very likely that a lot of this is political. That the charges are trumped up; or that they are based on biased and erroneous interpretations of the law; or are erroneous perceptions of what those politicians actually did. There is definitely a feeling of witch hunting emanating from warring political parties or factions within each party  against political their opponents. A sense that they are constantly looking for dirt anywhere and everywhere in order to discredit each other.

There are of course many Israeli politicians that are not corrupt. Most of them probably. But that is not what people now see when looking at the headlines.

Ironically (for the Yesh Atid haters) Yair Lapid is not one of those being accused of corruption. Nor to the best of my knowledge have any of his party members. One of which is my favorite Yesh Atid member, MK Rabbi Dov Lipman.

And yet based on the polls, his career as a Member of the Kenesset may be very short lived. He is 17th on the Yesh Atid list and the polls show that they will only get about 10 seats. This is really too bad. He was a fresh face in the Kenesset with fresh ideas.  An unusual MK from the Charedi world that understood their situation. He worked hard to better the lot of the Charedi world and succeeded at many levels. This – despite the opposition and even vilification he got from that world.

If I were Diogenes, my search would stop here. Here is an honest man who does not fear controversy and does what he thinks is right. If the predictions hold true, his presence in the Kenesset will be missed.

About the Author
My worldview is based on the philosophy of my teacher, Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik , and the writings of Rabbis Joseph B. Soloveitcihk , Norman Lamm, and Dr. Eliezer Berkovits from whom I developed an appreciation for philosophy. I attended Telshe Yeshiva and the Hebrew Theological College where I was ordained. I also attended Roosevelt University where I received my degree in Psychology.
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