Conservative Corruption: Israeli Edition

Thought that corruption on the Right was limited to Americans like Tom DeLay, Bob Taft, Conrad Burns, Curt Weldon, Ernie Fletcher, Charles Taylor, Bob Ney, Jack Abramoff, Bill Frist, Tom Noe, Rick Santorum, David Safavian, John Doolittle, Ralph Reed, Richard Pombo, Jerry Lewis and Denny Hastert? Think again. According to Rebecca Anna Stoil of The Jerusalem Post, Israel's star of the Right, Bibi Netanyahu, is involved in an ethics investigation that could finally spell an end to his reactionary political career.

Opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) was questioned for hours by the National Fraud Squad Tuesday afternoon under suspicion of accepting gifts illegally, as his political rivals kept their eyes on the investigation of a man who sought to portray his party as the alternative to corrupt politics.

Tuesday's questioning was part of an ongoing National Fraud Squad investigation into Yisrael Katz, the former chairman of the Pedagogic Secretariat at the Education Ministry, who has been accused of using government funds to support his private research institute which he ran while he worked for the ministry.

For a number of months, detectives have been probing allegations that Katz committed both fraud and violation of trust in diverting Education Ministry funds to carrying out political opinion polls at the Institute for Education and Community Research at Bar Ilan University.

In this case, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving opinion polls conducted for him by Katz without compensating Katz for the service. Only after a Channel 10 report revealed in late 2005 that Netanyahu had been receiving the polling data, he paid the bill - tens of thousands of shekels - to Katz. It remains unclear if Netanyahu knew that the studies were allegedly financed through the government funds.

With Israel seemingly entering a new phase of engagement with the Palestinians, the center-right/center-left coalition headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Kadima Party is in a particularly tenuous situation. Opinion in the country after the conflict with Hizbollah is trending more hawkish rather than less, and a recently-released Angus-Reid poll indicates that a right wing Likud Party headed by Netanyahu (who has been toning up the rhetoric when it comes to Iran) would win a rather sizable mandate from voters, garnering an estimated 29 seats, followed by Kadima (center-right) at 18 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu (far right) at 14 seats, Labor (center-left) at 12 seats and Shas (ultra-orthodox Sephardic Jews) at 10 seats. In short, Israelis are significantly more conservative in their outlook today than perhaps they have ever been.

But a major corruption scandal focused on Likud, which has prided itself as the clean government alternative for Israelis, could seriously undermine the Party's abilities to triumph in any upcoming election -- particularly if it is their standard-bearer, Benjamin Netanyahu, who the focus of investigators.

Now corruption is not a new issue to Israelis. They have certainly seen their share of scandals before and have, in the past, been willing to overlook similar scandals as broader issues of security come to the fore. That said, if the Netanyahu probe continues and the deescalation proves to hold (with Israel not reentering Gaza and the Palestinians not continuing to fire rockets into Israel), thus helping to refocus the electorate on Kadima's agenda of bringing more stability through withdrawal from Palestinian territories, Olmert might be able to recapture his support among voters and stave off any challenge from the right.

Yes, there are a lot of "ifs" there. But things move very quickly in the region and Israeli voters are more than willing to change their alliances with the coming of new successes or failures. So while Netanyahu and the Israeli Right appear ascendent today, there is yet a very good chance that a coalition of the middle will be able to retain power in the coming months and years and at least try to move the situation between Israel and the Palestinians forward.

Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Elections, Israel (all tags)

Comments

7 Comments

Re: Conservative Corruption: Israeli Edition

The Israeli's aren't really conservative. They're generally a freedom loving, social justice loving social democratic people. But they are very conservative when it comes to national defense/foreign policy. And let's face it, that's a much more pressing issue for them than say, France.

by DRR7979 2006-11-29 01:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Conservative Corruption: Israeli Edition

Uh... right.

They vote for the rightists don't they? That makes the electorate conservative.

by MNPundit 2006-11-29 02:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Conservative Corruption: Israeli Edition

Blind support for Israel (carte blanche, no matter what the Israelis do) by BOTH political parties has caused untold damage to the future security of the United States.

In an interview on Hardball, John McCain used Iran's suposed immediate "threat" to Israel as the chief reason for our entire policy on Iran.  Tell me another example in history of a nation's foreign policy raison d'etre being to put another nation's 'security" as a greater priority than even their own?

Good people on all sides may or may not agree on our Israeli policy, but cleary it is not benefitting the United States longterm.

Personally, I'd rather not die in a nuclear blast from a rogue country who's basic reason for hating us is our support for another country.  Would the Likuds risk Israeli security for our security?  I rather doubt it.  They have their own nukes, let them finally grow up and handle their own shit.

Btw, this post is all about the Israeli government (Likud, mainly)and policy, NOT the Israeli people.

by jgarcia 2006-11-29 03:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Conservative Corruption: Israeli Edition

Sorry but Bibi is a freaking vampire.  Remember he lost the prime minister's seat due to corruption issues before and he's still around.  The Israeli voters realized that they don't like him, and he's still around.  It'll take more than just a few bribery charges to get rid of this guy.

That's because his base of power isn't in Israel, its in the U.S.  As long as Bibi gets the support of the American conservative movement, he can still hang around and run as much as he wants.  And as we have seen in the last few years, the American conservative movement is okay with corruption.

by Jim Treglio 2006-11-29 04:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Conservative Corruption: Israeli Edition

God I hope this scandal has legs. I can't recall the details but didn't Bibi have another scandal several years ago, which perhaps led to his sadly all too brief banishment from the center of Israeli politics?

And while I'm ok with anything that brings the likes of Bibi down, why is it that right-wing thugs are invariably brought down by corruption and lawbreaking, and not a realization by the public that they're terrible leaders with horrible ideas and policies?

I've got a semi-interesting Bibi story that a friend of mine told me about a run-in he once had with Bibi that made me like him even less, that I'll tell sometime if anyone's interested. As a teaser, it concerns NYC's Central Park, a bike race, and Bibi's kids. It's both funny and infuriating.

by kovie 2006-11-29 05:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Conservative Corruption: Israeli Edition

The corruption issue is kind of interesting in its parallels to the US, because labor's 20-30 year run of dominance collapsed in the mid-1970s in part b/c of a perception of the party being too close to elite interests.  This is why Likud has been able to run as a reform group from the right- because the left's historic base has been the wealthy Ashkenazim.  Rabin was the interloper in a couple decades of conservative PMs.

by brooklynmfs 2006-11-29 06:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Conservative Corruption: Israeli Edition

The Israeli people truly want peace, but they cannot help be frustrated by the lack of movement by the world community on issues that affect their security, namely Iran and Hezbollah.  Iran IS an immediate thream to Israel.  If Kim Jung-Il were to say, "I'm going to nuke Washington tomorrow," what would we do? This is no different from Ahmedinejad calling for the destruction of Israel and a second Holocaust.  While I am not a supporter of Bibi, the world community needs to show Israel that any step it takes (say, withdrawing from settlements in Gaza) will be accompanied by guarantees to its security.

by psublue 2006-11-30 05:51AM | 0 recs

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