Many believe that corruption is unavoidable, that it’s the Israeli way of making deals. It is not.
Renowned British historian Lord Acton argued in the 19th century that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Wherever an exaggerated concentration of governmental power exists, corruption brews. Wherever there is excessive bureaucracy or excessive regulation, corruption will flourish. Because it’s human nature. In any given large group of public servants and politicians there are those who can be seduced to make shortcuts.
For that reason, the solution to corruption is relatively simple: cut down bureaucracy and reduce taxes. It is the simplest and fastest way to rid ourselves of this plague. When taxes are low, there is no need to cheat or engage in tax evasion. When the red tape is cut down, there is no more need for ‘wheeler-dealers’ to provide shortcuts.
For example, do you remember that until 1998, it was illegal in Israel to be in the possession of over a certain amount of US dollars without the approval of the central bank? Israeli citizens were living in a country that resembled the way things are done in Third World countries. They were not allowed to leave with a significant amount and were considered outlaws if they failed to deposit and register their additional dollars in the central bank. As a result, an entire black market industry flourished in Lillenblum Street in Tel Aviv.
When the government I headed decided to cancel the foreign currency restrictions in 1998, the money exchangers vanished and Israelis no longer needed to “hide the dollars under the mattress.” Corruption involving foreign currency was all but eliminated.
Along with reducing taxes and cutting down red tape, there is also a need to unequivocally stand by the forces that expose corruption in the public sector, such as the state comptroller, the attorney general and the Finance Ministry’s accountant general.
In addition, there is a need to weigh in on the possibility of establishing a state authority, one that would come up with ideas to cut down on the red tape while at the same time fight corruption. It may also be the right time to set up a ‘corruption police’ force.
One final note with regards to the Likud: not many know this, but about a year ago, we implemented a reform within our ranks. We stripped the power of 3,000 Central Committee members to choose the Likud’s Knesset representatives and passed it on to the 100,000 party members. This radical decision was overwhelmingly ratified by none other than the 3,000 Central Committee members themselves. This type of action will prevent the emergence of affairs we hear so much about in the media these days.