President Number 10

The Knesset (Israel’s parliament) will elect today the 10th President of Israel. Five candidates made it through en especially undignified election campaign. One candidate withdrew because of allegations of unspecific inappropriate sexual misconduct in his past. Another withdrew because the police suddenly became interested in cash he may have not declared.

The remaining candidates were pulled into a witch hunt about their personal finances. Israelis do not need to file tax returns as in America so there is no legal obligation to reveal personal wealth, unless asked to specifically by the authorities. But after the recent verdict against a former Prime Minister, found guilty of taking bribes, the general public mood is one of: “show us the money”. So the candidates had no choice and each had to declare publicly how many houses he/she owned and how much money each had in the bank.

Presidents To Be

To me, this entire episode is inappropriate, to say the least. The request for disclosure does not originate in a genuine desire to change the reality of corrupt politicians, but a shameless eagerness to point fingers at those who have more. Many of Israel’s politicians, as their colleagues elsewhere, are wealthy – but not because of any illegal activities. The media frenzy to “out” the candidates’ finances is wrong because the underlying message is that wealth is a bad thing and poverty is a good thing. This is a Catholic approach to money, which Judaism never adopted. A person can be wealthy and righteous, or poor and immoral. Wealth is not a factor of how good or bad a person is.

Yes, the ties between politics and and business in Israel need to be changed. But this tarring and feathering approach is not the way to go about it.

As for the vote itself: frankly, I couldn’t care less who the next President of this country will be. We already have an ex-President serving time in jail for rape. How much worse can we do?

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