Israeli politicians are not required to make their finances open for public scrutiny. Despite that fact, Israeli politics has been decimated by corruption investigations.

In the last elections for President, two hopefuls refused to reveal any financial information, and only one, present President Rivlin, was willing to reveal full details.

As Ehud Olmert demonstrated, even the lofty office of Prime Minister is not immune to corruption. It is a detail that the Israeli public wants to know about the candidates. Yitzchak Herzog and Tzipi Livini discussed this with Channel 2 and made personal revelations about their finances.

Their revelations were not shocking but interesting nonetheless. Herzog is the owner of several properties in Tel Aviv, the most expensive being a home that belonged to his parents in the upscale Tzahala section of the city. That property alone is worth NIS 8 million ($2.2 million). He also is part owner of a large plot of land in Tel Aviv and an apartment in Haifa, for which he is still paying off a mortgage. Herzog also has bank account holdings of NIS 2.6 million ($600,000), as well as a savings account worth NIS 585,000 ($150,000).
Livni also owns extensive and expensive real estate holdings. She owns a five room home in the Ramat Hahayal neighborhood of Tel Aviv, said to be worth NIS 5 million ($1.35 million). She purchased that home in 1982 for $82,000. She has NIS 34,000 ($9,000) in the bank, and NIS 2.5 million ($575,000) in stock market holdings.

The data was taken from disclosure statements given by the two that is not available to the public. It does not include pension accounts.

In 1977, Yitzchak Rabin was forced to resign from being prime minister when it was discovered that he and his wife had American bank accounts, violating Israeli currency statues. Shortly after that, the law was changed, allowing such accounts.

The list of present day politicians in Israel who are either under investigation or have been accused is disturbingly long. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has a standing reservation at prison for accepting sacks of money. Avigdor Lieberman’s party has been decimated by a police investigation that has uncovered tens of millions of shekels in money laundering. Aryeh Deri was in jail for corruption. Were it not for his failing health, Ben Eliezer would probably be in jail already. At the risk of sounding like Yair Lapid, there seems to be a lot of corruption in Israeli politics. An unfortunate aspect of Israeli culture that I have still not gotten used to is the idea that cronyism, a crime in the American political system, as a positive connotation in its Israeli counterpart and even has a cute name: protexia.

I feel that the Israeli political system and its players could do with a lot more scrutiny and transparency. I don’t fault Livni and Herzog for being well off, though they seem to have done very well for civil servants. I many not support them or their politics, but I do award them a few points for allowing the public a look at their personal finances, something I wish would happen more often.