If any of those biblical prophets of old still wandered the Holy Land today,
chances are they'd be double-wringing their hands and shouting at the top of
their lungs. Iranian threats of nuclear annihilation and Palestinian terrorist
attacks are bad enough news for the people of Israel. But an embarrassing plague
of internal scandals is now shaking the Jewish state to its political and moral
The most shocking example of the morass may well be the charges of multiple rape
leveled against Israeli President Moshe Katsav. Israel's head of state holds a
largely ceremonial job: accepting diplomats' credentials, holding receptions and
"setting an example for the nation." So the very idea that the 61-year-old
figurehead leader forced female employees to have sex with him first numbed,
then disgusted the nation.
Katsav insists he's been set up, claiming he is the victim of a yellow press and
vindictive blackmailers. Just last week, a parliamentary committee amazingly voted
impeach him, even
though Israeli police say that after months of investigation they've uncovered
enough proof to indict him.
Katsav is not official Israel's only alleged sexual harasser. Haim Ramon, once
one of the leading young lights of the nation's Kadima Party and get this - the
Ehud Olmert government's minister of justice - was recently charged with
bestowing an impassioned kiss on an unwilling young female soldier.
Ramon is now a former minister of justice.
Not all of Israel's current scandals involve criminally randy shepherds of
state. Prime Minister Olmert, already under considerable fire for his
mishandling of last year's war in Lebanon, faces allegations that he took bribes
during the sale of a major Israeli bank. Questions also have been raised about
Olmert's purchase of an expensive home in Jerusalem at a price considerably
lower than its actual value. And this month, the head of the Israeli Tax
Authority, one of Olmert's top aides, was among those arrested on various
charges of bribery.
Even the police are in embarrassing disrepute. Moshe Karadi, Israel's national
police chief, was forced to resign last month because of alleged shady
departmental dealings with members of the Israeli mob.
Just as worrisome to many Israelis is the clear indication that corrupt business
practices are on the rise both in and out of government circles. According to
the World Bank and other global reports, Israel now ranks as one of the most
fraudulent business/government societies in the free world.
Of course, Israel's practicing corruptibles are almost amateurs compared to what
goes on in neighboring countries. Try making a deal in Saudi Arabia, Syria or
even Egypt without paying off a local prince, general or official.
But that's exactly the point. Israel is supposed to be different. I'm no
Pollyanna, but the only real democracy in the Middle East ought to set an
example - for other less democratic nations and most importantly for itself and its
own sense of
Eighty years ago, the great Hebrew poet Chaim Nachman Bialik welcomed news of
the first burglary in Tel Aviv by publicly thanking G-d for letting "us live to
see this day and hour." Bialik was talking of the Zionist dream that Jews could
finally live normally like other people and have their own nation, even if it
meant suffering their own criminals.
Today, he'd probably say, "All right already - let's not get carried away!"