In the comment threads here yesterday, I argued that only the Israeli right (that is, those with real political power) is corrupt. Further, I argued that since the Israeli left didn’t have power it wasn’t corrupt. At least not in the venal way that virtually every party in the governing coalition is.
But today’s news proves me wrong–at least in part. Shelly Yachimovich, seeking revenge against a former Labor Party minister who defected to a competing party, revealed that Amir Peretz stood accused of vote-buying and rigging the 2007 Labor Party primary at which he was elected party leader. Those whose memories go back that far, will remember that Peretz came from virtually out of nowhere and stormed into the primary, winning the party leadership over Shimon Peres. His loss sent him into the arms of Ariel Sharon’s Kadima and began the political rise of Peretz, who reached his level of incompetence as defense minister under Bibi Netanyahu.
There are now added charges that two other Labor party MKs, Eran Margalit and Ralab Majadleh also engaged in vote-buying.
For those readers who are a tad defensive, no, I’m not saying that U.S. politics isn’t corrupt. Jesse Jackson Jr. is but the latest example of such corruption. But U.S. corruption generally doesn’t sweep across entire parties as it does in Israel. Corruption is endemic in Israeli politics. In fact, much of the patronage politics of parties like Shas is immersed in corruption.
But let’s not lose sight of the fact that Peretz and Labor aren’t the only ones accused of vote-buying. Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi has one current MK who’s accused of vote-buying.
But I still maintain that if you define the “left” properly, there is little or no corruption on the Israeli left. I simply can’t imagine anyone from Meretz or Hadash or Balad engaging in such corrupt backroom deals. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t happen were they in power. But I’d like to think it would be far less likely.