JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s ranking on an annual corruption index should "turn on a warning light," said an Israeli board member of the watchdog group that issued the survey.
Israel finished 36th among 182 countries in the corruption ranking issued Thursday by Transparency International, while the United States came in 24th. Most other Middle Eastern countries trailed Israel, with the exception of Qatar and United Arab Emirates, which ranked 22nd and 28th, respectively.
The Transparency International index rates countries according to domestic polls reflecting opinions on how corrupt their public sectors are. Under the previous government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israel was rocked by a succession of graft scandals, but these have largely ebbed under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the exception of the rape verdict against former President Moshe Katsav.
Israel was ranked 30th in last year’s Transparency International index, and the drop in standing was received locally with alarm.
"Israel’s disappointing grade should turn on a warning light among politicians, decision-makers and the entire public," Amnon Dick, a member of Transparency International-Israel’s board of directors, told Yediot Achronot. "We are perceived around the world as more corrupt than we were the past, and this could have economic repercussions in the future."
New Zealand topped the list, followed by Europe’s Scandinavian countries Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Somalia was deemed the most corrupt nation.