Israeli Democracy’s Warts Are a Selling Point Too

When we talk about Israeli democracy — warts and all — who knew the warts could be a selling point too?

I think Tom Friedman’s onto something when he says Al Jazeera coverage of Israel helped fuel Arab protests.

The Arab TV network Al Jazeera has a big team covering Israel today. Here are some of the stories they have been beaming into the Arab world: Israel’s previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert, had to resign because he was accused of illicitly taking envelopes stuffed with money from a Jewish-American backer. An Israeli court recently convicted Israel’s former president Moshe Katsav on two counts of rape, based on accusations by former employees. And just a few weeks ago, Israel, at the last second, rescinded the appointment of Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant as the army’s new chief of staff after Israeli environmentalists spurred a government investigation that concluded General Galant had seized public land near his home. (You can see his house on Google Maps!) This surely got a few laughs in Egypt where land sales to fat cats and cronies of the regime that have resulted in huge overnight profits have been the talk of Cairo this past year. When you live right next to a country that is bringing to justice its top leaders for corruption and you live in a country where many of the top leaders are corrupt, well, you notice.

Transparency and accountability are indeed necessary for a democratic state. Friedman’s point isn’t what David Suissa had in mind when he talked about exporting Israeli democracy. But it makes the warts a little less maddening . . .

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