Lately, the leaders of the State of Israel seem to be tested again and again. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is accused of corruption; Israel’s former president, Moshe Katsav, was found guilty of two counts of rape; the new chief of staff, Yoav Galant, was accused of irregularities when building his house. The whole country suddenly was talking about Galant’s architectural taste, the number of olive trees on his property, and whether these were planted with proper permits, and questioning whether a liar was fit to lead the nation’s armed forces.
Day by day, we hear of politicians facing allegations of corruption, nepotism, waste, flagrant mismanagement, bribery, conflict of interest, and more. Is this a sign that we are on the verge of a moral collapse, or does this reflect our high standards, our morality, and our strength?
Our sages instruct us to appoint as a public leader only one who “has behind him a can of worms or a box of vermin.” What does this mean? Why must a leader be stained? The common explanation is that one who has something to be ashamed of will be more careful, or in other words, modesty is a required and acquired skill. In that case, we should be very proud! Most of our leaders today (Israeli and worldwide) are stained with some sort of fault. Think Italy.
When the Katsav affair first hit the headlines, four and a half years ago, I was a shlicha (emissary) in Pittsburgh. Members of the Jewish community asked me again and again about my feelings. I replied that besides being embarrassed as an Israeli and offended as a woman, I was also proud. I was proud that the State of Israel proved to its citizens, and to the world, that it’s a real democracy, and that no one, not even the president, is above the law. All recent investigations prove that our moral standards in Israel are very high. Like any other country, corruption accompanies power and authority, but unlike some other countries, Israelis expect their leaders to set an example. All our recent scandals and investigations prove the equality of the law in Israel, and the confidence we have in the Israeli court system.
Yesterday, Benny Gantz, Israel’s twentieth chief of staff, began his term. Let’s hope that the Israeli song, wishing for peace, will become a reality: Bashana haba’ah – “Next year we will sit on the porch and count all the birds, Children on vacation will play catch, between the houses in the fields You will see how good it will be Next year”.
JCC Association Israel Office Director