Many in Israel have long expressed a lack of complete trust and faith in their elected officials, citing cases of corruption, fraud and theft among the highest of government leaders. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin touched on this subject during a conference in Sderot on Wednesday, devoting his remarks to the lack of trust between the public and the elected officials and reinforcing the stance that something must be done to change what some argue is becoming the norm in Israel.
"The index of social resilience published this week by the Sderot Conference reveals a grim reality," said Rivlin, referring to a report which stated that nearly sixty percent of Israelis believe the Knesset is corrupt and over seventy percent believe that the parties operate in a corrupt manner. "Indexes and other surveys published in recent years show similar trends and point to a deepening lack of confidence between the public and its elected representatives," said Rivlin, adding, "I believe the ongoing distrust and alienation between the public and its elected representatives endangers us as a democracy and endangers us as a society."
Although surprised by the numbers cited in the report, Rivlin alluded to the fact that the findings should come as no surprise, as a number of candidates who have been caught up in legal troubles in the past are currently running in the upcoming Knesset elections. "Two particularly troublesome political phenomena surfaced during the current electoral campaign," said Rivlin. "The first phenomenon is the return of public officials convicted of crimes to the political system and the Knesset." Rivlin added that the more severe phenomenon is the buying and selling of candidates, ideologies and platforms, as this election has seen a number of candidates changing party loyalty.
With respect to the question of convicted individuals running for the Knesset, Rivlin said that "the public outcry was loud," adding that many in the public feel uncomfortable with the possibility of these candidates' holding public office again. Rivlin called for a written law which would bar anyone with a criminal past from running or serving in the Knesset. "The next Knesset will have to address this issue…the arrangements that exist within the law today, and allow this phenomenon, do not properly reflect public morality. "
Stressing the importance of addressing this issue, Rivlin said, "First and foremost it is a question of integrity, fairness, and public responsibility. Standards that were acceptable in the past have been worn thin during the last term, especially in recent months. "