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Sever Plocker
Israel no longer civilized
Corruption in tax system jeopardizes Israel’s stability more than Hizbullah attack

A red line was crossed Tuesday. Israel left the bloc of civilized countries and passed over to the dark side.

 

Where is there another democracy in which top Tax Authority officials are detained, the Justice Minister is put on trial, intricate financial affairs involving the prime minister and finance minister are being investigated and police files are being opened against so many top officials? Such a democracy does not exist except for Israel model 2006 - such a successful, yet crooked country.

 

If the senior tax officials are indeed found guilty of even a small number of the offenses they are suspected of, this would spell the collapse of the public service system.

 

Corruption and bribery at the highest levels of the tax system jeopardize Israel’s stability even more than a Hizbullah attack or the arrest of the prime, or any other, minister.

 

This would be a devastating blow the to the State’s backbone; when the tax system is rotten, so is the entire governing body. The disgust is overflowing.

 

The first to suffer will be the Finance Ministry, where the situation is already dire due to the power struggle between Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha and the rest of the division heads.

 

The conviction of senior Tax Authority officials would paralyze the ministry altogether. And we haven’t even discussed the possibility of an investigation against the finance minister himself.

 

No country is immune

The Tax Authority’s activity will also be hindered. In the few years before the aforementioned scandal, it was pleasant to walk through the doors of the Tax Authority: The employees smiled and were courteous toward the tax-payers. The terror was no longer; those who came with clean hands could expect positive treatment.

 

Tax arrangements were carried out in a clear and expedient manner, and assessing officers refrained from imposing the maximum tax allowed. The finance minister’s instructions to the assessors were clear: Take the citizens wishes into consideration; they also deserve a break every now and again, within reason.

 

This policy has proven itself beyond all expectations. The tax revenues, despite the decrease in tax rates, increased rapidly and resulted in surpluses in the State Budget. It turned out that when a government authority treats citizens with respect, the citizens pay their dues.

 

All this may come to an end today. Which assessing officer would risk accommodating a tax-payer? He or she would prefer not to decide, or go to court – anything so as not to arouse suspicions.

 

However, arrests of senior Tax Authority would have the most damaging effect on the citizens’ trust in the authorities and the public’s willingness to cooperate with them.

 

This trust, which is the foundation of every civil society, is already very fragile and is expected to become even weaker and reach the point of indifference and a search for alternatives to democracy.

 

Such situations breed populist, fascist and Bolshevik movements. No country is immune from them; not even Israel. 

 

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