It is deeply unsavory that two convicted felons are staging political "comebacks" without any real objection from the Israeli public: Aryeh Deri of Shas, and Ehud Olmert [who knows where he'll wind up, at present]. They aren't the first in Israeli political life, either.
In many countries -- for example, the US, in Federal elections -- convicted felons are denied the right to vote, having forfeited the privilege by their criminal and/or antisocial behavior. Not so Israel. Deri has never made any secret that he feels he was victimized, AFAIK he never admitted guilt or remorse. Olmert had a reputation for cronyism, if not outright corruption, long before he even became Jerusalem's mayor. Yet both these men don't see this as a bar to political life; indeed, it almost is regarded as being worthy of being in one's CV. [Katsav, our former President, convicted of rape, and the conviction upheld on appeal, actually has the chutzpah to request a pardon, the newspapers reported only a few days ago]
Shas has always been a party out for what it could grab for its constituents, not a party which wanted to benefit Israel as a whole . Maybe that's why it doesn't see the immorality of letting Deri behave as if his conviction for fraud and bribery doesn't matter. But it should matter, deeply. The Mizrachim in today's Israel are not the destitute, uneducated people they were in the ma'abarot back in the Fifties. One could hope that today's generation has the sense and the education to see that, in the long run, they are only hurting themselves.
Olmert is a bit different, but no less deeply flawed. If Israel had a Tammany Hall, he'd be leading it. Tammany Hall, incidentally, did many good things for New Yorkers; but it was, on the whole, a kind of local Mafia [the Mafia also helped people who were politically powerless, it needs to be remembered. They just did it in criminal, and often brutal, ways]. Olmert, who is a lawyer, knows exactly what he is doing; it can be argued that, at least at the beginning, Deri was more naive. He was, after all, the gofer for the Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, and power intoxicated him, most likely. Olmert has always had the smarts to be more calculating.
Israel doesn't need either of them, and the electorate should reject both of them. But, the way things work in Israel, that won't happen, because the public doesn't control internal party politics here. No party is really accountable to its constituents -- and that's Israel's tragedy.
|Your Brain is Green|