In light of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's recent stint in the courtroom and other indictments and allegations brought against top Israeli politicians, experts are pondering whether the Jewish state is as corrupt as it sometimes comes off.
Israel has slid down to 36th place on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index last December – the country's lowest ranking yet. The Berlin-based organization scores 183 countries each year based on how corrupt their public sectors are seen to be. The country which ranks first is considered the least corrupt.
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The fact that the Jewish state has dropped six spots on the index compared to the previous year is a powerful indicator that the Israeli public is becoming increasingly frustrated with what they consider as shady dealings on the part of their elected officials.
The development isn't surprising, perhaps, considering that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been under criminal investigation for fraud, breach of trust and money laundering, among other allegations. And Olmert himself on Tuesday was found guilty of breach of trust – although the conviction paled in comparison to the corruption charges of which he was acquitted.
But a senior political science professor at Tel Aviv University suggested that the negative perception of lawmakers could be unmerited.
Professor Yossi Shain, who penned "The Language of Corruption and Israel's Moral Culture," asserted that the State Prosecutor's Office was too hasty to indict Olmert.
"It has been proved yet again that the urge to fight corruption sometimes overpowers any actual wrongdoing," Shain told Ynet, referring to the former leader's exoneration, which sent shockwaves across Israel's justice system on Tuesday. "This overeager approach has brought down an Israeli government, which isn't a trivial matter. The democratic process has been compromised."
According to Shain, the overzealous attitude has turned into a prevalent trend. The professor asserted that an influential group is responsible for "taking over the public discourse and presenting politics as a corrupt sphere by using legal means and the media."
Israel doesn’t fare any worse than other democratic nations, like France, Shain noted.
"Chirac was convicted, Sarkozy was investigated, but no one is saying that these democratic states are on the verge of collapse," he said.
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