Reprinted from Gush Shalom
WHEN THE State of Israel was founded, the new foreign minister, Moshe Sharett, did something that seemed quite natural. He sold his private apartment.
In his new function, he was accorded an official residence. A modest one, needless to say.
Sharett thought that it was unseemly for a public official to retain a private apartment when he was living at the public expense.
He did not keep the money he received for his private apartment. Rather, he donated it to several human rights associations -- the very same that are now under fierce government attack and labeled "leftists," a label only slightly less negative than "treasonous."
Today, such an act would be considered insane. Why, the present Prime Minister lives in an official residence and keeps two more houses, one of which is a luxury villa in a colony of the very rich.
In many respects, Sharett was an exception. He was born in Ukraine as Moshe Shertok, came to Palestine when he was 10 years old, lived for some years in Arab neighborhoods where he learned Arabic, served during World War I in the Ottoman army and became the Zionist expert on foreign relations. All this was quite unusual: almost all Zionist leaders neither knew Arabs nor liked them, they did not understand Arabic and saw the Arabs right from the beginning as enemies.
Lest this be understood as flattery by an admirer, I must add that he did not like me at all and said some very unkind things about me, which I countered with some quite unkind remarks of my own.
Yet I could not refrain from remembering his decency this week, on the day on which the highest court in Israel sent a former Prime Minister to prison for bribery.
WHEN THIS happened, the accused, Ehud Olmert, was almost jubilant.
A lower court had found him guilty of a much more serious bribery accusation and condemned him to a much longer prison term. The Supreme Court, after dragging his case out for as long as possible, reduced the offense and the prison term from six years to a mere year and a half. As usual in Israel, a third will be remitted for good behavior in prison, so he will probably "sit" for one year only.
Hallelujah. The former Prime Minister will spend only one year in prison, where he will join a former President of Israel who has been sent there for rape.
The present Prime Minister and his wife are under investigation for using government funds to pay the expenses of their two private homes. The present attorney of the Netanyahus has asked the Attorney General for a private conversation, in which he was going to ask him (according to a written note) to quash the investigation, hinting that Sara Netanyahu was mentally unstable. The Attorney General refused to see him, but the matter is dragging on.
By the way, the all-powerful Attorney General (known in Israel as the "Legal Advisor to the Government") was, before his appointment, the private attorney of the Netanyahu family. He will finish his term in a month, when he will be replaced by the present Cabinet Secretary, a person even closer to Netanyahu.
Several other leading political luminaries are under criminal investigation for this and that. One of them is Sylvan Shalom, the former Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, who had to resign last week after being suspected of raping or molesting six women who were working under him (no pun intended).
The police officer in charge of the department responsible for all these investigations has just been reinstated, after being suspended on suspicion of sexually molesting female officers.