Blackadder and Israeli elections

By Sahar Zivan, October 19, 2012
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In an episode of 1980's British comedy Blackadder, while discussing Baldrick's lack of a criminal record, Edmund Blackadder exclaims: "Come on Baldrick, you're going to be an MP! I'll just write fraud and sexual deviance."

How sad then, that while the episode in question is meant to describe British politics in the 19th century, it could just as easily explain Israeli politics in the 21st. With election season in full swing, two of the biggest names who are tipped to sway the balance of this election are convicted criminals.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert remains on trial over the Holyland affair and last month was convicted on charges of breach of public trust, while in 2000, the former head of Shas, who served as interior minister, Aryeh Deri, was sentenced to three years in jail for accepting bribes while in office. This is nothing new.

The current Prime Minister, Defence Minister and Foreign Minister have all been investigated over allegations of corruption and in 2001 Mr Lieberman was also convicted of assault on a 12 year old boy.

In comparison, in the UK the Conservative Party's chief whip's battle for his job continues over allegations that he called police officers a derogatory term, despite the officer in question allegedly accepting an apology and the Metropolitan Police not set to pursue the matter.

I don't for one second wish to take away from the seriousness of the matter, but if this is the reaction to using an offensive word, then how would the notoriously unforgiving British press respond to any attempted return to politics by a man convicted of accepting $155,000 in bribe money while a serving minister? What a field day would they have with the headlines about a man many are now eagerly anticipating the return of, when only one month ago he was convicted of breaching the public trust?

The truth is that as Israelis we've become used to lowering our expectations of politicians. The last time Israelis went to the polls, I was a first time voter. Having read the manifestos of all the relevant parties, I cast my vote based on my principles, which I was insistent I would not compromise on. As it turned out, the party I voted for was happy to compromise its principles for me, time and again.

Little wonder that as the election comes around this time, I too find myself wondering whether Olmert and Deri's crimes are really unforgivable. Surely, I think to myself, surely if they can bring about a change in social policy in Israel, help reduce the gap between the rich and poor, make housing affordable again, we can forgive them a "little" indiscretion from a decade ago? That same cynical part of me insists that the only difference between Olmert and Deri, and the current crop of Knesset members is that the former got caught.

Perhaps Moshe Kachlon, the outgoing minister for communication, shouldn't have been so surprised by the reaction to his announcement that he was retiring earlier this week. "I've been telling everyone for years that I was going home at the end of this term. I guess people really don't believe politicians" Kachlon said, stating that which to most of us is already obvious.

Sahar, 22, has lived in Israel in for the past nine years. Follow him on Twitter.

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Last updated: 11:51am, October 31 2012