EDITORIAL: Corruption: ‘the greatest single existential threat to Israel’

Corruption: ‘the greatest single existential threat to Israel’

At the web site of the neoconservative magazine, Commentary, Michael B Oren (who is in line to become Israel’s next ambassador to the United States) moves away from the standard position on existential threats to Israel. Seeing an array of existential threats, Oren says that among those, that posed by a nuclear-armed Iran would itself constitute “not one but several existential threats.” Even so, he does not see the risk of Israel being wiped off the map as preeminent among the dangers Israel faces.

This is where Oren locates the greatest threat to Israel’s survival:

Recent years have witnessed the indictment of major Israeli leaders on charges of embezzlement, taking bribes, money laundering, sexual harassment, and even rape. Young Israelis shun politics, which are widely perceived as cutthroat; the Knesset, according to annual surveys, commands the lowest level of respect of any state institution. Charges of corruption have spread to areas of Israeli society, such as the army, once considered inviolate.

The breakdown of public morality, in my view, poses the greatest single existential threat to Israel. It is this threat that undermines Israel’s ability to cope with other threats; that saps the willingness of Israelis to fight, to govern themselves, and even to continue living within a sovereign Jewish state. It emboldens Israel’s enemies and sullies Israel’s international reputation. The fact that Israel is a world leader in drug and human trafficking, in money laundering, and in illicit weapons sales is not only unconscionable for a Jewish state, it also substantively reduces that state’s ability to survive.

When it comes to Oren’s remedy, he sounds less than convincing:

…corruption must be rooted out through a revival of Zionist and Jewish values. These should be inculcated, first, in the schools, then through the media and popular culture. The most pressing need is for leadership.

Perhaps there’s another route — one that’s presumably compatible with Jewish values yet can make no claim to being specifically Judaic: the promotion of public integrity.

Corruption is the most glaring expression of a conflict between words and actions. The gap that separates what Israel’s leaders say from what they do is what renders their utterances worthless. But although such leaders are viewed with cynicism by those who have witnessed how deeply ingrained this lack of integrity has become, that cynicism can easily be washed away if promises are fulfilled through actions.

While Israel’s pathological political culture has been shaped by many powerful internal forces there has also been for many decades an external enabler: the United States.

Having previously given Israel’s leaders a free pass, the US could, if it chose, help break the cycle of corruption.

From an unexpected quarter an opportunity is now emerging through which Israel could reclaim some international faith in the value of its word.

Israel’s US-enabled policy of “nuclear ambiguity” has frayed beyond repair. A policy which was never anything more than a bargain of deceit does nothing more than give Israel an excuse for excluding itself from an international debate within which its unacknowledged nuclear arsenal is a central factor.

Now, the Obama administration’s top arms control negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, has effectively declared that the era of nuclear ambiguity is over and that Israel’s nuclear arsenal cannot forever remain outside the regime of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

“Universal adherence to the NPT itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea … remains a fundamental objective of the United States,” Gottemoeller said at the UN on Tuesday.

The Jerusalem Post reported:

Former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s chief strategist, Dov Weisglass, said Gottemoeller’s comments were very alarming.

“If these statements indicate a change in American policy on this issue, I believe this may be the most worrisome development for Israel’s security in many years,” he told Army Radio.

The Washington Times reported:

Ms. Gottemoeller endorsed the concept of a nuclear-free Middle East in a 2005 paper that she co-authored, “Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security.”

“Instead of defensively trying to ignore Israels nuclear status, the United States and Israel should proactively call for regional dialogue to specify the conditions necessary to achieve a zone free of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons,” she wrote.

The paper recommends that Israel take steps to disarm in exchange for its neighbors getting rid of chemical and biological weapons programs as well as Iran forgoing uranium enrichment.

If soon-to-be ambassador Oren is serious about reversing Israel’s problem with corruption, maybe he needs to put into practice the art of political leadership and press Prime Minister Netanyahu to take a bold political initiative by bringing Israel out of the nuclear closet.

Is this likely to happen? Hardly. Why? Because Israel does not perceive Iran so much as an existential threat as much as a strategic threat to its regional military dominance.

Entering the NPT and eventually disarming would not threaten Israel’s existence but would destroy its privileged status as a rogue nation able to resist international pressure.

If Obama really wants to sharpen his challenge to Netanyahu when they meet later this month, perhaps who can present him with this choice: keep your nuclear arsenal and learn how to live with a nuclear Iran, or, sign up for the creation of a non-nuclear Middle East. Nukes or no nukes. Which do you want?

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  1. DE Teodoru says

    Of course, Oren doesn’t deem his own intellectual fraud to dupe us “dumb goyim” as corruption because he does propagandistic corruption for a good cause like much of the garbage in the Bible. Making his ambassador is a crime of recklessness but I guess Netanyahu is speaking to the American Jews who refuse to mix “American” with “Israeli” by sending this AC/DC loyalty type. Bad choice, bad move….as usual, minless chutzpah.

  2. delia ruhe says

    Most informed people in the international community will just add Oren to the list of Israeli irritants: Lebanonwar, Gazawar, Bibi, Lieberman, now Oren. That will do nothing to assist Israel in its new PR offensive. This is indeed the right moment for that all-or-nothing position on the nuke question — and it has the added advantage of speaking the Israeli language, which is as bloody-minded and binary as Geo. W. Bush’s.