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Transparency International Finds “High” IDF Corruption Level

Transparency International just published an index measuring levels of corruption in defense spending and military policy for nations around the world.  Israel placed in Band D, just above the middle rank.  The summary of concerns listed in the analysis was:

…While formal provisions for legislative oversight of defence policy do exist in the form of a permanent Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee…the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is reluctant to cooperate fully with these processes. As a result, the influence that parliament can exert over defence policy is limited. In recent years it has been found that the government has become increasingly intolerant toward civil society organisations that actively criticise defence and security policies. Generally speaking, public debate on issues of defence is rare.

…The defence budget lacks transparency.

…Public commitment to anti-corruption measures by leaders in the defence sector are found to be infrequent, though are sometimes expressed in the wake of an incident. There is little transparency with regard to numbers of civilian and military personnel.

Government policy is recognised to be weak in relation to defence procurement. There is no specific legislation relating to defence procurement, and information on the procurement cycle is not available to the public. There are examples of large-scale defence purchases occurring at the request of the Israeli Defence Forces, but without any clearly outlined justification of needs.

There is much that is commendable in this report concerning Israeli defense policy bearing on corruption.  It’s a blessing in itself to have an independent international body measure Israel in relation to other nations.  This is something that the IDF would never undertake for fear of what it might expose.

But there is too much in the survey that is superficial and misapprehends the IDF reality.  For example, the report says:

…There is no evidence to show that organised crime has penetrated Israel’s defence sector.

While in relation to other countries that may be controlled by such organizations, Israel is free of such gangsterism, this statement doesn’t properly appreciate the absolute power the IDF wields in Israeli society and the absolute way in which it wields it.  In other words, though the mafia may not control IDF budget and procurement policy, those who do are a civilized domestic version of the mafia.  Not only is the military budget entirely opaque, many procurement decisions are opaque.  Contracts are awarded based as much on cronyism as on merit.  Officers retire from military service only to cross over to the industry sector thus creating a Good Old [Ashkenazi] Boy network.  Instances of generals who grow wealthy from post-career defense consulting are rife.  Ehud Barak, whose wealth was estimated by Forbes Israel at $8-million (a large sum for Israel), is a perfect example.  When he returns to private life shortly, the spigot will reopen.

Additionally, while internally there may not be a high level of corruption, Israeli defense contractors readily pay bribes to foreign nations to procure contracts.  Such behavior is almost never sanctioned in any way.  In fact, it’s viewed by the nation (not just the contractor) as the cost of doing business.  If that’s what it takes to win a contract, then so be it–is the prevailing attitude.

Here is another statement that misleads:

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) does not employ private military contractors (PMCs), which reduces the attendant corruption risk.

While the IDF may not employ such contractors, much of the policing that enforces the Occupation is parceled out to such contractors.  Security in highly-volatile zones like East Jerusalem is also contracted to private companies which often exercise brute force that is even more troubling than the worst that Israeli police authorities have to offer.  In the West Bank, settlers patrol their settlements and exert force at whatever level they deem necessary often leading to murder and maiming of unarmed civilians.

Though I understand the purpose of the survey was to measure corruption and not specifically political criteria, in the Israeli context they inevitably bleed into each other.  When the security policy of a country is predicated on theft on a national scale of the lands of another people, the entire modus operandi of the defense apparatus is based on corruption.

If Israel were the only country being rated, my judgment is that it should’ve ranked even lower.  But the fact is that there are far more corrupt countries in the world that make Israel look decent in comparison.  It’s all relative.

And lest any Israel boosters take this as an endorsement.  Here are some of the other countries with which Israel shares Band D: Ukraine, Lebanon, Serbia and United Arab Emirates.  Not exactly paragons of transparency I’d say.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Eliyahu January 29, 2013, 2:40 AM

    The report says that it’s a measure of corruption risk, not actual corruption. You seem to be conflating the two.
    That being said, it’s preposterous that the rank is so low, and that there’s so little parliamentary oversight on an expenditure that takes up such a huge portion of the national budget.

    • Richard Silverstein January 29, 2013, 10:38 PM

      So your claim is that because the report only says Israel has a high risk of corruption that means it doesn’t have actual corruption? Really, is that you actual claim? Because if it is let’s all agree you’re the funniest guy in the comment threads tonight. If however you concede that Israel’s military/security complex is rife with corruption, self-dealing & conflict of interest, then we’d have something to agree on.

  • pabelmont January 29, 2013, 10:02 AM

    Richard, from what you write, it appears that Israel and the USA employ the same mechanism for the irreversible militarization of society: [1] money from makers of military stuff (once aka “Merchants of Death”) can support political parties and politicians (and warriors), including via the “revolving-door”; [2] what actually happens can be hidden behind the wall of “national security secrecy”, thereby preventing public discussion of how much money to spend on what to spend it on, as well as military policy; [3] mercenaries and (other?) armed thugs are let loose without government supervision and allowed to do as they will against so-called enemies (including people the state is supposed to protect, the “civilian persons” living under military occupation) (USAers: please recall the excesses of Blackwater in Iraq).

  • zakeri January 29, 2013, 10:51 AM

    You’re either ignorant or uneducated?
    In such cases, the patient please

    • Richard Silverstein January 30, 2013, 2:15 AM

      @Zakeri: Ah, so we are now graced by a comment from Hamidezra Zakeri himself, the fraudulent source for the fraudulent Reza Khalili who perpetrated the latest Fordo fraud. How nice to have you here Zakeri.

  • Davey January 29, 2013, 7:37 PM

    Richard — you appear to suggest that politics and corruption are separate entities which “bleed” over to one another (a proper image!). It’s easier to lump these activities together than to separate them. From what I gather, the use of graft, payoffs, murder etc. falls under the overriding Israeli rationalization for all the crimes of the state, namely the “no choice” dictate This poor excuse allows crimes against peoples, states, groups and humanity. It may have once made sense though I doubt it, but now it has become just a place to hide. “No choice” should be the national motto, imprinted on shekels and monuments.

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