The Israeli economy is continuing to grow at an astounding pace and with it one of the fastest growing sectors in the country: political corruption.
Spokesman for the government announced today that political corruption, including all parties in and out of the government, has seen a nearly twenty percent growth in the past year, up from eleven percent just a year ago, and up from the meager five percent before the Lebanon War.
Analysts attribute the unprecedented growth to Olmert's continuing mastery of his role as prime minister and the increase in experience his fellow ministers and himself have gained in the past two years, "Obviously when you start out in a new office it is difficult to recognize the opportunities and seize them," explained Olmert, who is considered the person largely responsible for the frenzied growth of the corruption sector, "But after a while you learn the ropes and you stop pressing and everything comes to you – and that's when our business really took off."
Although accurate financial reports from the various ministers are unavailable of course, experts estimate that the cabinet has netted a gross of 250 million NS for this year alone, a sum, which for obvious reasons, is also exempt from taxes.
This includes an estimated fifty percent raise in revenue from bribes compared to last year, along with raises in fixed government tenders, and vote buying. Sex with underlings has also risen by a modest 7.6% (Moshe Katzav, where art thou?). Lesser perks of all kind have risen and new ones have popped up, especially on the part of international parties, "The past year has seen a surprising growth in foreign investment in the Israeli corruption market," says Moshe Greenbaum, an analyst, "The European Union is a big player in the market as well as the American Government and of course the Palestinian Authority, although at times, it is difficult to discern who exactly is bribing who and for what purpose."
Politically, the willingness of the public in Israel and abroad, to invest enormous sums in government officials indicates a growing degree of confidence in the government's abilities to meet expectations analysts say: "Our motto is 'We always deliver'," said Olmert,"…If the price is right."
Israel is no stranger to political controversy and the issue of corruption in government is no different – some people think that it is wrong.
For instance, government comptroller, Michael Lindenstrauss went on record following the announcement, insisting that stealing from public funds or accepting bribes is, "Plain wrong, immoral and also illegal."
This extremist stance was also expressed by Attorney General Manny Mazoz who has tried to catch Olmert red-handed but, until now, to no avail,
"The legal system, which I head, will never agree to wholesale corruption, graft or breach of trust in the Israeli government - that is, unless we get our cut," said Mazoz.
Olmert however shrugged off the radicals, "Growth is growth" said Olmert, "Does it really matter how that growth was achieved? What is the point of making moral judgments in a matter that is obviously financial? In my view, they are bigots - being against corruption in government is no different than being against Jews or Blacks. It's just another form of racism."
"Anyway, I believe that no matter what you do there will always be naysayers," Olmert said, "I learned long ago that you have got to do what you think is best and what could be better for Israel if not a government that has initiative and a bold entrepreneurial spirit? " asked Olmert, "I mean, how can we ask that the citizens of this country stop waiting for handouts and start doing things for themselves if we, their leaders, do not show them the way?"
"It's called leadership by example," Olmert said, "Was it not John Kennedy who once famously said, 'Ask not what you can do for your country but what your country can do for you'?" asked Olmert, concluding, "We are doing the best we can. The question now is will the people follow our example?"
Personally, I hope that the people chose not to follow this particularly vile pied-piper.
Meanwhile the residents of Sderot wait for their government to recognize them: Sderot Under Kassam Attack again - from INN.
Olmert Accuses State Comptroller of Doing His Job
Olmert Indicted for Jaywalking; Faces up to Thirty Years in Prison
And finally a philosophical point of view for our times from Shiloh Musings. It's from last year but still very pertinent: "Are We Jews of Silence?" she asks. Worth reading (again).