A few years back we, Chicago Peace Now, hosted Labor MK Offer Pines Paz in Chicago. We brought him to be interviewed on WBEZ and he spoke to our usual gang of suspects on the left. I was privileged to get to spend time with Offer and found him to be a nice guy, very ambitious and somewhat full of the Israeli arrogance we have all grown to love and despise simultaneously. Anyway, today Offer rose a notch in my mind. As I sat in the Carmel market eating my Turkish burekas and reading the free Yisrael HaYom, I spotted the article describing his resignation from the Labor Party and Knesset.
I have mixed feelings about this. He has proven to be a person of integrity, but he did it by leaving the hard work to those politicians he opposed. Instead of fighting for the Labor leadership, he has left it to crumble under the despotic reign of Ehud Barak. Instead of worrying about prisoner rehabilitation, peace with the Palestinians, poverty in Israel, (among his pet causes) Offer will now join the private sector and his place will be filled by a Barak crony. I cannot imagine what good this will do.
It is a real pity that it has come to this in Israel: a choice between integrity or leadership, but this is the case in a country where the entire leadership is corrupt. Here we have a recent former president who is a rapist, a head of the army who sold his stock portfolio on the day he started a war in Lebanon, a defense minister (Barak) who is constantly apologizing for misuse of the public coffers and a former prime minister who is about to get his day in court.
Two weeks ago, my high school friend, Bat Yam Mayor Shlomi Lechiani, was arrested for corruption and most news reports showed citizens angry that their beloved mayor, who has truly done so much for his city, will not be able to continue to govern. Shlomi is, of course, innocent until proven guilty, but things don't look good. And the real problem with this story is that the citizens of Bat Yam don't care about his corruption as long as the city looks good and the education levels remain high. And if this is the case in Bat Yam, Israel's 5th largest city, then of course it's going to be the case on the national level. As long as bombs don't fall and suicide bombers don't make their way into the streets of Jerusalem, we will tolerate corruption, lack of integrity, foot dragging with regard to the Palestinians and straight-up disrespect for the American administration.
Anyway, it's nice to take a pause and salute the integrity of Mr. Pines Paz. Now let's get back to work.