Watching the evening news in Israel is a depressing activity at the best of times. Tonight's edition was especially grim.Two examples.
- Olmert, already a lame duck premier, is now officially under police investigation for his alleged influence on a tender to sell Bank Leumi that would benefit a millionaire chum (Channel 10 did not fail to mention that his predecessors Netanyahu, Barak and Sharon had also been investigated with the cases eventually closed for lack of evidence).
- Ha'aretz's revelation that unofficial talks between Israelis and Syrians had led to a draft peace agreement were scorned by the PM's bureau.
You can see it all on http://www.haaretz.com
Olmert's legal entanglements (the Bank Leumi case is one of several) sit on top of an odious pile of criminal investigations. These have cut into entire swathes of the establishment : the President, the army and the political leadership (conduct of the Lebanon War), the finance minister, the former minister of justice, the top tier of the income tax authorities, the PM's secretary, senior businessmen and the football league (partial list only)
The (alleged) crimes differ: bribery, fraud, sexual misconduct, circular, illegal financial transactions, undue political influence, clashes of interest, nominations of political cronies and game-fixing, but the stench of corruption is both inescapable and demoralising.
Corruption rots everything around it. The police investigations, praiseworthy per se, create an atmosphere in which everyone is on their guard against possible corruption. With the possibility of legal action hanging above their heads, uncorrupt officials are scared to take decisions and administrations become paralysed.
And while the Syrians are certainly no angels, the decision not to engage them in peace talks (while attempting to remove them from the Iranian axis) comes so clearly at the behest of the USA that we feel , and are seen, as weak, dangling on a string. The institutions of statehood seem to have been hijacked by crime families, crooked politicians, unscrupulous businessmen, inept policemen, the IDF old boys club and the American President.
In the street, the growing feeling is that with no-institutions left to trust - all we have is ourselves.