the 90th minute

Until September 2007, when my oldest daughter was born, this blog covered daily life and politics in Israel, as well as Hebrew-English linguistic issues, from the perspective of an American-raised journalist and translator living in Israel. Now it mostly serves as the SmunchMonk&Bear news agency, a portal into the bizarre universe of the little people. Read more at: www.shoshanakordova.com.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Good news, hoping for better

The good news is that Tzachi Hanegbi has finally been indicted (hip hip hooray!). It now remains to be seen whether he'll rot in jail or become the next prime minister. Or maybe president or chief rabbi? After all, the whiff of corruption appears to be a necessary condition to reach a high level of power in this country - and boy, does Hanegbi stink.

Hanegbi, a long-time Likudnik who was welcomed with open arms into Kadima despite the stench, is accused of making as many political appointments as he could - i.e. giving jobs to Likud Central Committee members and their relatives and friends - while serving as environment minister between 2001 and 2003.

Hanegbi is refusing to resign as chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and is still pissed that he was basically forced to quit as public security minister in 2004. Mind you, the public security minister oversees the police force, which was investigating him at the time, and he was allowed to remain a minister (without portfolio). Yeah, he was really mistreated there. The tears are flowing.

And you know what Hanegbi has to say in his defense? "That he did not deviate from the norm that had been in place for dozens of years, and by which dozens of ministers had abided," as Haaretz reported today. Oh, and there's more: "Hanegbi didn't try to hide his actions, even going as far as publishing ads in the Likud newsletter to describe his efforts on behalf of central committee members."

I only wish I could say there was something refreshingly honest about Hanegbi's indicating that he views rampant and blatant political cronyism as a proud tradition that must be upheld.

But all his ardently unapologetic defense does is show exactly why he should be put behind bars for a long, long time.

What Hanegbi is right in pointing out is that his behavior can't be viewed in a vacuum. The Likud Central Committee system is notoriously corrupt. While the public votes for a specific party, the 3,000 Likud Central Committee members have been the ones to decide which candidates get top billing on the party's Knesset list and have a greater chance of becoming MKs. The more jobs a politician gives committee members, the more likely they are to vote for him (or her) and the more likely he is to score yet another favor-filled Knesset term.

Benjamin Netanyahu took a crucial - if still largely untested - step in turning over a new leaf for the Likud when, a few weeks before the last elections and after the Knesset list was already in place, he convinced the central committee to limit its own excessive power. The central committee, apparently hoping against hope that this would stem the tide of former Likud loyalists moving over to Kadima and even Labor, agreed to allow all members of the Likud party to decide the order of the Knesset list.

But just because the swamp that bred creatures like Hanegbi is starting to be drained, that is no reason to exempt him from the personal responsibility he is too shameless to recognize he has. The cleanup has to start somewhere, and the longer people like Hanegbi are wandering around bragging about how well they treat their buddies (wink wink), the longer the entrenched corruption will find a way to perpetuate itself.

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