Alon Ben-Meir, a senior fellow in the Center of Global Studies at New York University published an open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Huffington Post where he wrote:

The corruption and criminality among top officials is staggering: more than 10 ministers and at least 12 members of the Knesset have been convicted of crimes over the past 20 years alone. Former president Moshe Katsav and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were sentenced to seven years and 19 months in prison, respectively. Scores more were indicted, but escaped punishment through various legal loopholes often accorded to top officials.

It came as something of a surprise to me that '10 ministers and 12 members of the Knesset' had been indicted on criminal charges including a former president and prime-minister in the last twenty years; as I understand that Israel is fond of comparing itself to a European democracy rather than a 'corrupt' Arab regime; how does this in fact compare with a European Democracy, say Italy, France, Germany or the UK; or even its main backer - the US?

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    The Italian prime minister got a 4 year sentence.
    – ugoren
    Oct 15, 2017 at 16:11
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    Why is 'corrupt' in quotes, as if it wasn't the case? Arab regimes, like just about all other underdeveloped countries - sorry, make that "developing countries" for political correctness - are much more corrupt than western democracies. Oct 15, 2017 at 18:03
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    @Denis de Bernardy: because I've often heard the charge of corruption thrown at Arab states; and as I said it came to me as a 'surprise' that so many in the Israel government has faced similar charges and been indicted; just goes to show what one can learn when reading around; look at whats happening at the US with the Potentate Trump and his First Family - who'd have thought the US would have gone the way of Arab nepotism? Oct 15, 2017 at 20:41
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    @Alexei: the biased language as such is contained in the extract, my own language has been relatively unbiased; political terrain is contentious so its not surprising that contentious language is used; or would rather have me be 'politically correct'? Oct 15, 2017 at 20:43
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    A red flag goes up when I see 'fact' without context. 10 ministers and 12 members of the Knesset... out of how many total? What were those 'ministers' - major officials or minor? How many total Knesset members have there been over the last 20 years? You can make anyone or any group look inordinately bad, if you omit context and scale.
    – tj1000
    Oct 16, 2017 at 15:20

1 Answer 1


You seem to be asking several different questions. Let's address all of them in turn:

How does corruption in Israel differ from other Western democracies

Corruption is somewhat subjective but there's some well regarded efforts to measure it, however accurate they are[1]. On such is "Corruption Perception Index".

  • By that metrics, in 2016, Israel was ranked #28 on the list of 176 countries, with a score of 64 of 100 (higher score or ranking means less corruption).

  • That definitely lags many European democracies but not all of them - France is only slightly ahead, at rank #23 with a score of 69, for example. Portugal is #29 (62 score). Spain is #41 (score 58), Greece is #60 (score 44) USA is somewhere in the middle of democracies, #18 (74 score).

  • For comparison, Arab middle-eastern states seem to congregate at rankings below 150 and corruption score at or below 20 of 100 (Lebanon and Iran are at 30 score), so Israel is indeed far closer to a Western Democracy average than to Arab states.

[1] - corruption is far harder to observe in less democratic societies. E.g. we don't really know the level of corruption in North Korea since we simply don't know details of how North Korean politics works, though we can extrapolate from similar regimes in the past. A more thorough list of criticisms of CPI is in this article.

Note: I tried other datasets than CPI but seems most (e.g. Defence corruption risk index ) exclude Israel, either specifically or because they focus on OECD.

So, does the specific # of convictions indicate bad corruption.

First off, some of your data seems like false flag data points. You make a lot of hay over "one PM and one President" being convicted. Except, of the two, one was convicted for rape, nothing to do with corruption.

More importantly, the (seemingly!) high # of convicted officials is not necessarily an indicator of higher corruption, but also better democracy, in that the corrupt officials ARE successfully prosecuted and convicted. It's called Rule of Law.

So, can I besmirch Israel as "you can't compare yourself to Western democracies" because it seems to have higher corruption?


  • First, because as indicated it's actually in the middle of the pack for Western democracies. Yes, far behind Nordic states's ideal non-corruption, but ahead of several Western democracies, including far ahead of Spain and Greece. And it's light years ahead of most Arab states.

  • Second, because corruption is not necessarily indicative of the level of democracy. E.g. Singapour is extremely non-corrupt while being a rather authoritarian state; while highly democratic Greece is lagging Israel's score by more than Israel lags all but 7 highest ranking states.

  • Third, as mentioned, higher # of convicted officials for corruption can actually be a sign of a healthy democracy - rule of law is paramount, and you get investigated and convicted even if you ARE a Prime Minister.

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    Good answer. Although UAE actually beat Israel by a pair of points on the CPI. So it is not light years ahead of all Arab states. Oct 17, 2017 at 11:21
  • It's Singapore, not Singapour; Have you considered reformatting your answer? The use of bold and fonts are rather like shouting. Oct 25, 2017 at 6:57
  • It's funny you're talking about democracy; but an extra-large and bold No looks pretty authoritarian to me. Oct 25, 2017 at 7:00
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    This answer is clear and very compelling. Good answer May 7, 2018 at 14:25

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