In the public consciousness, the affair being investigated at the Israel Land Authority (ILA) as we speak is mixed with another burning affair – the suspicions of corruption by senior members of the Yisrael Beytenu party.
The common denominator begins and ends with the investigating factor – the Israeli Police's Lahav 443 unit. From any other aspect, there is likely no connection – not in regards to the involved officials, not in regards to the acts being investigated, not in regards to the extent of the investigations and not in regards to their political significance.
The investigation in the Yisrael Beytenu affair is attempting to infiltrate one of the most poisonous swamps in the State of Israel: The local authorities. To be more exact, the corrupt relationship in the parties-local authorities-government triangle.
This is a huge swamp, filled with small and big corruption, benefits and cutting corners. The advantage in the investigation is that almost every shot hits a target. That's also the disadvantage. As the investigation expands, it becomes more difficult focus on the essence.
It's safe to assume that at the end of the day, indictments will only be filed against those who took money for themselves or for their relatives. If the money was taken for a public purpose, they will let it be, even if the procedure they used was afflicted with corruption and even if it was a dubious public purpose.
The precedent was set in the Aryeh Deri affair: The personal case against Deri turned into an indictment and conviction; the public case was closed.
The ILA investigation focuses on one issue, or actually one discussion. ILA Chairman Bentzi Lieberman signed a conflict of interest document upon his appointment, as required. Nonetheless, he participated in a discussion related to a company he had business ties with in the past, and which his friend, former Knesset Member Nahum Langental, is connected to in the present.
The ILA's legal advisor, Yaakov (Yanki) Kvint, uncovered Lieberman's alleged offense. If there was a conflict of interests here, Lieberman must be punished. But the severity of the offense he allegedly committed cannot be compared to what is being uncovered in the Yisrael Beytenu affair.
The point is that the Israel Land Authority (or the Israel Land Administration, as it was called before) is also a huge, rotting swamp swarming with bacteria, which no one dares take care of.
At the beginning of the current government's term, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put Construction Minister Uri Ariel, head of the Bayit Yehudi party's haredi-nationalistic wing, in charge of the State of Israel's land. It was a reckless, lawless decision. Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett, who demanded the portfolio for Ariel, played a part in this lawlessness.
Ariel is No. 2 on the Bayit Yehudi's list for the next Knesset. It's neither great nor terrific. Uri Ariel is the real Bayit Yehudi. Bennett will hide him until after the elections, but will work for him once they are over.
Regardless of the government's composition in the next term, it will have to deal with the huge swamps created by its predecessors. It must appoint a state commission of inquiry to delve deeply into the relationship between the government and local authorities, clean up the corruption and put an end to the funding of affiliated institutions, put the state's lands on sale to the entire public, and finally dismantle the existing foundation.
Speaking against corruption during elections or making promises to reduce the housing prices is easy. But the swamps have to be dried up.