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Israel: Haaretz Columnist "Netanyahu is Corrupt"

nehemia_shtrasler_140x140Earlier this week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would break up the opposition party Kadima unless its leader Tzipi Livni joined a national unity government. Haaretz's Nehemia Shtrasler has responded by accusing Netanyahu of being "corrupt" due to his desire to expand "the largest, most inflated and wasteful government in the history of the state, a government with no functional logic, which has 30 ministers and nine deputy ministers".

Shtrasler also accused the Kadima members of Parliament reported to be leaviong the party of being a part of Netanyahu's "chair-ology". He criticised Israelis who "have not taken to the streets to demonstrate against the corruption."

The full article:
In another country, with a higher level of morality and less exhaustion and despair, the masses would already have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the corruption.

Admittedly, the public did not take to the streets to demonstrate when Benjamin Netanyahu set up the largest, most inflated and wasteful government in the history of the state, a government with no functional logic, which has 30 ministers and nine deputy ministers, most of whom have jobs fabricated out of nothing, grandiose and unnecessary bureaus and ridiculous perks. The public put up with that without a murmur. But now he wants to expand this monstrous government by buying another seven Knesset members who are interested only in a luxurious office, a chauffeur and other perks!

Netanyahu's job project has no connection to ideology. It is all a matter of chair-ology. There is no diplomatic plan on the horizon that requires a majority; there is no new vision that requires people to rally to the flag. Nor is Netanyahu about to sign any withdrawal plan.

Therefore, this is not a legitimate desertion; it is very different from a split on ideological grounds or leaving a party in order to support a new diplomatic program, like the split in Likud under Ariel Sharon, which occurred due to the disengagement plan.

So far, we are merely talking about proposals that have been made to various Knesset members - Arie Bibi, Otniel Schneller, Ronit Tirosh, Shai Hermesh and Yulia Shamalov Berkovich, who only two weeks ago told me that she considers politics "a serious profession that must be studied before one talks." Shamalov Berkovich has served in the Knesset for a mere half year. Is it serious that she should already be appointed a deputy minister?

The positions being offered to those who leave Kadima - for instance, in the Foreign Ministry (an additional minister) and the Public Security Ministry (a deputy minister) - are totally superfluous. They could just as well be appointed Minister of Nothing or Deputy Minister for Zilch. In other words, this is simply crude, blatant bribery that is much worse than the public corruption of which Abraham Hirchson, for example, was convicted.

Hirchson was sentenced to five years and five months in jail for stealing NIS 1.7 million from the National Workers Organization's coffers. That is a personal, localized crime that does not have much effect on the general public. But when the prime minister hands out bribes - every minister and deputy minister costs the taxpayer millions - that is a corruption of the democratic system, contempt for the rules of proper governance and scorn for the voters' choices.

The result will be an even greater distrust of and repugnance toward politicians. From there, the road is short to a loss of faith in the entire democratic process. And that is dangerous.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, who took energetic, resolute action against Hirchson when he was down and lacked political clout, is nowhere to be seen when it comes to the prime minister. Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who is responsible for the rule of law, has no opinion on the issue. Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar is also keeping mum. He is the one who in 2008 submitted a bill on Likud's behalf to limit the size of the cabinet to 18 ministers because he was so shocked by Ehud Olmert's oversize government, which contained 25 ministers. But that is nothing compared to Netanyahu. Yet there was a time when Netanyahu boasted of how he gave the public a government of 18 ministers in 1996.

Since then Netanyahu has aged, and for the worse. He understands that "the public is dumb, so the public will pay," as Shalom Hanoch's song says. That is why we now see a prime minister utterly different from the finance minister we saw six years ago and the prime minister of 13 years ago. Netanyahu, from the moment he was elected, has betrayed all his principles. He has smashed the tablets of the covenant that he himself wrote. In fact, he has no principles, except the principle of survival.

Netanyahu no longer has pretensions of improving the economy. He has no pretensions of cutting the budget or carrying out important reforms. He has raised the child allowances that he himself cut and included the budget for yeshivas and yeshiva students in the baseline national budget, something he fought against in the past.

He has given Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini veto power, even though he loathes the organization. Eini's veto will make it impossible for him to carry out important reforms at the Israel Electric Corporation, the Water Authority and the ports.

Every morning, Netanyahu checks to see which way the wind is blowing and then decides which direction to take.

That is why he decided to cancel the drought tax even though he knows the water economy is in a crisis. That is why he canceled value-added tax on fruit and vegetables - because he decided to heed "the public's feelings." That is why he is maneuvering incessantly over the Gilad Shalit deal, because he has not yet decided whether a majority of the public supports or opposes it.

One thing is clear: The public is exhausted and in despair, so it will not exact payment from him for his corrupt actions. Netanyahu understood that the journalists would write a bit and the public would complain a bit, but in the end, everyone would forget - and he would remain, with his hold on power bolstered. The prime minister knows we will not go out to the city square and shout with hoarse voices: "Corrupt politicians, we're fed up with you!"

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