Ex-president tells UK event of 'shame' at Israel sleaze

By Leon Symons, June 19, 2008

A former Israeli president has said he is ashamed of the corruption scandal engulfing his country’s politics.

Yitzhak Navon, who held office from 1978 to 1983, said: “I feel ashamed at what is happening, but my consolation is that there is no cover-up. Whatever rank or position someone holds, they are interrogated if under suspicion. If they are guilty, they will be punished and this shows democracy works.”

Speaking at an event in London to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday, organised by the Zionist Federation and New North London Synagogue, Mr Navon said there  was “collaboration between public opinion and the media”, so there was no question that anyone could be bribed to cover up wrong-doing.

Asked about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is at the centre of allegations about payments from a supporter, he said: “I will not speak about any person. I don’t do it in Israel and I won’t do it here.”

A one-time aide to David Ben-Gurion, Mr Navon said he did not know why corruption was so prevalent in Israeli politics now. “There were a few cases in the past as well, but the media was different then.”

He believed there should be greater emphasis on the personal probity of candidates in elections. “When people stand as candidates, the criteria must be put in the qualifications [to stand].There should be knowledge that these candidates must be honest, of impeccable behaviour, and modest. These should be among the most important considerations because these people must serve as examples to others. Those who elect their representatives will be more vigilant in the future.”

Last updated: 9:07am, June 19 2008