Called to ac­count

Zuma and Ne­tanyahu show per­ils of perk-seek­ing

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - National -

Two very vis­i­ble world lead­ers, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu of Is­rael and just-de­parted Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma of South Africa, have been ac­cused of hav­ing taken ad­van­tage of their of­fi­cial po­si­tions for per­sonal gain.

Their sit­u­a­tions and likely fates are dif­fer­ent, de­pen­dent on the laws and pol­i­tics of their two coun­tries, but the com­pro­mised po­si­tion of both are clear.

Mr. Ne­tanyahu, in his third con­sec­u­tive and fourth term as prime min­is­ter of Is­rael, is ac­cused by the Is­raeli po­lice, af­ter a long and some­times pub­li­cized in­ves­ti­ga­tion, of hav­ing ac­cepted cash and lux­ury gifts from var­i­ous pa­trons, in­clud­ing an Is­raeli busi­ness­man and an Aus­tralian bil­lion­aire, al­legedly in re­turn for fa­vors that in­cluded pos­i­tive me­dia cov­er­age for his po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns. The out­come of the po­lice rec­om­men­da­tion that Mr. Ne­tanyahu be in­dicted is un­clear. He, of course, vows to fight. Is­raeli At­tor­ney Gen­eral Avichai Man­del­blit must de­cide whether to pur­sue the po­lice rec­om­men­da­tion to pros­e­cute, and the at­tor­ney gen­eral him­self is a for­mer aide to Mr. Ne­tanyahu.

What is clear is that Is­raeli vot­ers are em­bar­rassed by the po­lice charges, although this is not their first ex­pe­ri­ence of al­legedly crim­i­nal prime min­is­ters, in­clud­ing pre­vi­ous charges against Mr. Ne­tanyahu. They might also be just tired of Mr. Ne­tanyahu af­ter his many, some­times con­tro­ver­sial, years as leader of Is­rael. Some Amer­i­cans have not ap­pre­ci­ated his ag­gres­sive op­po­si­tion to the Iran nu­clear deal signed in 2015, or his view of the United States’ ef­forts to get ne­go­ti­a­tions to­ward a two-state, Is­rael-Pales­tine res­o­lu­tion of the prob­lem of land in the for­mer Pales­tine.

The case of Mr. Zuma is much clearer. Solid ev­i­dence ex­ists of Mr. Zuma’s per­sonal cor­rup­tion, in­clud­ing both mas­sive im­prove­ments to his per­sonal prop­erty paid for by the state and a cor­rupt re­la­tion­ship with a prom­i­nent, rich, South African In­dian busi­ness fam­ily, the Guptas. Po­lice raided the Gupta Johannesburg res­i­dence on Wed­nes­day and ar­rested three peo­ple.

The dom­i­nant South African po­lit­i­cal party, the African Na­tional Congress, could have got­ten rid of Mr. Zuma through the par­lia­ment by en­gi­neer­ing a no-con­fi­dence vote, and it al­ready had lined up his suc­ces­sor, elected as ANC pres­i­dent in De­cem­ber, busi­ness­man Cyril Ramaphosa. Mr. Zuma had been given a dead­line ei­ther to re­sign or be de­fen­es­trated from the post he oc­cu­pied for nine years. On Wed­nes­day, he an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion.

In a world where eth­i­cal stan­dards, in­clud­ing among po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, seem to be slip­ping in a ma­jor way, it is en­cour­ag­ing to see both the Is­raeli po­lice and the South African po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment tak­ing ac­tion. Cor­rupt be­hav­ior by lead­ers can­not go un­no­ticed or un­pun­ished. All of these peo­ple are, in the end, ser­vants of the pub­lic and ac­count­able to them.

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