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An Ethical Proposal

October 19, 2006
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For the many Americans who love and take pride in Israel, some of the news coming out of the Jewish state lately is a little hard to take.

Accusations of rape and sexual harassment against President Moshe Katsav are deeply troubling, even if Katsav is entitled to the presumption of innocence. But this is no more depressing than the charges currently being weighed against other prominent members of the Israeli government. Two members of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party are under indictment: Former environment minister Tzachi Hanegbi for illegal patronage appointments, and former justice minister Haim Ramon, who is also facing sexual-harassment charges. Olmert himself is accused of involvement in real estate scams that date back to when he served as mayor of Jerusalem.

That's a daunting list of peccadillos. But Israel's detractors need to remember that it is hardly the only democracy whose leaders have had their ethics questioned. Though American views of some of these issues appear to be far more straight-laced than that of many other developed nations (and that includes Israel), we are in no position to be judgmental about the natural failings of Israelis.

We trust that Israel's judicial system will mete out a full measure of justice to both the guilty and the innocent. But it still needs to be said that supporters also hope that the current wave of scandals will have a sobering effect on Israel's political class.

In the wake of the Katsav scandal, some have suggested that former Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky, who is about to leave the Knesset after more than a decade in political life, would be an excellent choice for the ceremonial position as president.

We agree. His impeccable reputation, as well as his status as a former immigrant who knows full well the price of freedom, would make him an ideal choice.

Politics may well dictate that others, including some outstanding personalities, will have priority over Sharansky. But we hope that whoever is picked to lead Israel will remember that when he or she takes on such a prominent and symbolic role, then that individual becomes, in a very real sense, a representative of all Jewish people -- and not just the faction that picked them.

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