Eliad Shraga : “This government is a group of crooks with no regard for the benefit of Israel”

Interview with Eliad Shraga

Continuation of K.‘s interviews and reports from Israel. Julia Christ and Elie Petit met with attorney and founder of the Movement for Quality Government, Eliad Shraga. One of our interviewees called him “the biggest judicial troublemaker in the country”. He is a leading figure in the fight against corruption and for the rule of law. His case for the drafting of ultra-Orthodox into the army will have its final decision on June 2nd and could represent an important threat to the current coalition.


Eliad Shraga in his office in Tel Aviv
K. : You’re a very well-known figure in Israel, but less known outside the country. Could you introduce yourself to K’s readers?

ES : I am an advocate from a longstanding family lineage spanning nine generations here in Israel. Jerusalem is my birthplace. I served as an officer in the IDF Paratroops Brigade and continued to serve for many years as a reservist, with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Alongside running my law firm, I have dedicated the past 34 years to leading an NGO known as the Movement for Quality Government in Israel. Our mission is to combat corruption within the system, a cause we have championed for many years. As the largest and oldest movement of its kind in Israel, we boast over 100,000 members. I proudly hold the position of chairman within the movement.

K. : In an interview you gave 6 years ago, in which you describe yourself as the “national plumber”, you stated that corruption in Israel is at its highest. How has it developed?

ES : Over the past 34 years, I have consistently emphasized the grave threat that corruption poses to Israeli society. Corruption undermines social security, economic stability, and national security. In the past year alone, we have witnessed how corruption can erode the very foundations of governance, jeopardizing stability. When corrupt leaders are entrenched in power, unforeseen challenges arise, leading to dire consequences. What was once a concerning issue has now escalated into the worst era of corruption. A group of criminals has effectively seized control, an unprecedented situation where convicted individuals, even those incarcerated, wield influence within the Israeli government. This is a political crisis of unprecedented magnitude.

K. : Can you describe the different types of corruption you see in Israeli society or government?

ES : There used to be a time when ethics mattered. If a minister or Prime Minister lacked ethical integrity, they would have the decency to resign. However, nowadays, even if someone is indicted by the attorney general, or worse, convicted and serves time in jail, they still feel entitled to hold ministerial or Knesset positions. It’s truly unbelievable. Sadly, criminal behavior has overshadowed ethical considerations. As I mentioned, despite being convicted and incarcerated, individuals still believe they are fit to lead in the public sphere.

K. : And why do you think that is? Are Israelis crazy? Or do you, as the founder of the Movement for the Quality of Government, think that they are looking for other qualities than the ones that you consider to be priority?

ES : Unfortunately, this phenomenon isn’t unique to Israel; it’s happening worldwide. It’s been nearly 80 years since the Second World War, and many have seemingly forgotten the liberal and democratic principles that once guided us. There’s a widespread lack of understanding regarding these ideals. It’s become commonplace, our daily… [The interview is interrupted by an alarm. It comes from Mr. Shraga’s phone. He stops. Turns to his computer. Opens the website Ynet.co.il. Nothing on the page. Suddenly, a red banner appears at the bottom of the news site’s home page.]

One or more rockets from Lebanon are headed for Kiryat Shmona in the north of the country.

K. : Does it mean that it was intercepted? Does it say if it failed or if it fell?

ES : It gives the direction of the missile… This time, Hezbollah shot a rocket toward Kiryat Shmona. People need to stay in shelters. What was I saying ?

K. : You said it’s a worldwide movement…

ES : In all the Western world, you see such lunatic leaders taking the stage, as people abandon liberal and democratic values. They’re chasing after money, foregoing the moral fabric that once defined us. Many no longer aspire to lead or contribute positively to the state; instead, they’re focused on running their own companies and amassing wealth for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, those who do seek leadership positions often embody the worst traits of society and end up in places like the Knesset. It’s a tragic reality.

K. : Isn’t there an institution called the school that would provide a device called education?

ES : We’ve become less ideological. There was a time when our society was deeply rooted in ideology, but now we’re increasingly driven by the pursuit of personal gain. It’s happening here in Israel, it’s happening in Europe, it’s happening all over the world. We don’t even have to look far; consider leaders like Sarkozy, the former President of France, who was implicated in bribery scandals.This is a global affliction. However, in Israel, it’s particularly perilous because we’re surrounded by enemies. We need leaders who are free from conflicts of interest, who prioritize the country’s interests above all else. Netanyahu is facing three serious indictments, yet he continues to govern. It’s truly unbelievable.

K. : Could you remind us of the indictments of Netanyahu?

ES : The first is known as the “1,000 file,” where he’s accused by the attorney general of accepting gifts from friends and reciprocating with favors, totaling over a million shekels. The second, the “2,000 file,” involves his alleged attempt to manipulate media ownership to control and influence public opinion. Specifically, he’s accused of trying to suppress competition between major newspapers, Yediot Acharonot and Israel Hayom, which is illegal. The third case, the “4,000 file,” revolves around alleged benefits received from a news website on one end, and in return, granting benefits worth over a billion shekels to the owner of a communication company, facilitating their merger. It’s a complex case, but these allegations are very serious. He’s aware that he could end up behind bars and is doing everything to undermine the judiciary.

What he did last year, prior to October 7th, was an attempt at a regime coup. He sought to transform Israel from a liberal democracy into a dictatorship. I submitted a petition to the Supreme Court, and a panel of 15 judges halted his efforts. While there were multiple attempts, we were successful in the main case. We managed to thwart this attempted regime coup. We’re currently in the High Court of Justice, contending with other petitions against him. He’s endeavoring to influence committees and appoint judges here in Israel, akin to what occurred in Poland and Hungary, where leaders tried to subvert democracy. Israel lacks a constitution, which poses a problem, as he continually alters basic laws to suit his own agenda. Ultimately, the High Court of Justice, the Supreme Court[1], made a landmark decision to repeal a new basic law he enacted.

It’s unprecedented in our history for the Supreme Court to repeal a fundamental law, which are laws that are supposed to have quasi-constitutional status, but it happened, and it prevented the regime coup. Unfortunately, we faced October 7. It occurred under his watch, and he refuses to take any responsibility for it. This attack against us caught the army unprepared, in a situation we’ve never encountered before.

If Netanyahu wasn’t beholden to these two crooks, Smotrich and Ben Gvir, he wouldn’t be making decisions that led to such a level of disengagement of the Western world regarding Israel. 

K. : How do you analyze this army’s unpreparedness?

ES : Both the army and the defense minister repeatedly warned Netanyahu that our enemies perceive Israeli society as divided, and this perception is exacerbated by the actions of the current regime. However, Netanyahu chose to disregard intelligence warnings regarding potential attacks from Iran, Hamas, or Hezbollah. When our adversaries see internal division within Israel, they view it as a vulnerability and may exploit it with an attack. Reality is that life is full of surprises, and the enemy will always find ways to catch you off guard. Although preparations may have been made countless times over the last 50 years, a single mistake can have severe consequences. In such instances, accountability falls squarely on the Prime Minister. It’s notable that the Chief of Staff, defense ministers, and intelligence services have all acknowledged their responsibility and committed to resigning after the war. Netanyahu, he didn’t.

K. : Do you believe that this failure is partially linked to corruption, or is it a result of other factors?

ES : It’s corruption, corruption, corruption. Look at what we have today: a coalition of convicted criminals like Aryeh Deri and others who have served time in jail. People like Ben Gvir and Netanyahu himself have been indicted. It’s a group of crooks forming an alliance solely for their own interests, with no regard for the benefit of Israel. Just look at the state of our relationships with Europe and the United States. It’s the fault of this government. If Netanyahu wasn’t beholden to these two crooks, Smotrich and Ben Gvir, he wouldn’t be making decisions that led to such a level of disengagement of the Western world regarding Israel. He’s paralyzed by them, afraid to remove them from his coalition because he knows that once they’re out, he’ll find himself behind bars. He’s effectively held captive by these two fascist individuals, unable to make any meaningful decisions for the country.

This situation is beyond belief, something we never imagined could occur. What drives me crazy is that he’s not facing the consequences. I have six children, all serving as officers in elite army units, while his eldest son lounges in Miami ! As Jews, we always dreamed of having a small country we could defend, and to defend the Jewish world – a lesson learned from the Holocaust. We were willing to sacrifice to live in a Jewish state. But he doesn’t care. He’s only interested in his own gain. Only a corrupt leader could make such corrupt decisions. Unfortunately, we’re the ones paying the price in the end.

K. : In your eyes, is there actually any political leader in Israel?

ES : We lack political leadership. Our opposition is weak, with individuals like Mr. Lapid and Mr. Gantz unable to stand up to such a coalition and effectively challenge it. [Mister Shraga then mischievously says out to us “One of you two, would you like to become our leader, please ?“]

K. : And you, do you think of running for a governmental position?

ES : For the past 34 years, I’ve firmly believed that our strength as an NGO lies in our ability to operate outside the political establishment. This enables us to critique individuals and parties across the political spectrum without bias. Whether one identifies as left-wing, right-wing, religious, or secular, corruption remains corruption in our eyes. Our focus has always been on what’s necessary to safeguard the state of Israel. Currently, I’m leading a campaign advocating for universal military service. As you may know, the Orthodox community in Israel is exempt from military service, which I believe will lead to future challenges. This appointment revolves around issues of equality and military recruitment. I advocate for universal conscription, where everyone serves in the army for at least three years. Unfortunately, in Israel, there’s a discrepancy between those who enjoy rights, like the Orthodox, and those, like us, who have both rights and duties, as well as the Druze community, who have only duties. [The interview is once again interrupted by an alarm on Mr. Shraga’s phone. He stops, turns to his screenanc. The Ynet.co.il. website is already open. A new red banner replaces the previous one.]

This is now in the south. What a day.

I dream about a Constitution for Israel, which is what I’m actively advocating for. Establishing a robust constitution is crucial for our country, especially considering how Netanyahu has exploited the system through repeated amendments to basic laws, a staggering 35 times in just five years. To put this into perspective, the United States has only made 27 amendments to its constitution since 1789, spanning 235 years. If Israel hopes to address these issues, we must adopt a constitution. If necessary, I’m prepared to step into the political arena, whether in the Knesset or elsewhere, to fulfill our mission. We would do whatever is needed.

K. : Could you provide more details or context about the judgment concerning the Orthodox draft in the army?

ES :  The hearing is scheduled for the second of June, in three weeks’ time. It pertains to the repeal of a law passed in June 2023, which granted exemptions to the Orthodox community from military service. The Supreme Court overturned this law, citing inequality and unfair comparison between different groups. Consequently, under current legislation, everyone is required to serve in the military. However, despite this, the government has decided to continue exempting the Orthodox from service. The Court of Justice has issued a warrant against the government, questioning the basis of their authority to make such decisions, as it contradicts existing law. I am confident that my petition will be successful, and justice will prevail against the government. Once this happens, the army will need to recruit approximately 70,000 individuals who are currently exempt from military service. I anticipate that this change will create significant challenges for Israel, as many Orthodox individuals are accustomed to sitting at home rather than serving in the army, working, or paying taxes, relying on others to handle their responsibilities for them.

K. : Do you think it would change things to the way the Israeli army is acting?

ES : The army is not a political entity. In the army, everyone serves, regardless of their background or beliefs. At the end of the day, everyone is an individual, and that’s how it should be. What matters is that they participate in our mission to defend Israel. We face numerous enemies who wish to harm us, and the Jewish community worldwide faces similar threats.

K. : You are waging a fierce battle against Netanyahu, whom you want to see in prison. Outside the country, complaints are being filed with the ICC to indict him as a war criminal[2]. What do you think about this?

ES : This highlights the hypocrisy of the world we live in. After an attack that resulted in the brutal massacre, sometimes rape of 1,200 people in Israel by Nazi-like terrorists, instead of addressing this horrific crime, the International Criminal Court (ICC) chooses to target the Prime Minister of Israel. Whether it’s Netanyahu or someone else, or even high-ranking officers, the fact remains that the ICC’s actions would reek of antisemitism, injustice, and hypocrisy. This is a serious issue that we must confront. If such actions are allowed to proceed, it will only serve to legitimize antisemitism worldwide and falsely implicate Israel for defending itself. My daughter serves as a doctor in the paratroopers in Gaza, where she has saved numerous Palestinian civilian lives, despite the fact that terrorists often seek refuge in hospitals, using innocent civilians as human shields. No one can lecture us on morals, values, and ethics. However, as Jews, we understand that we must bear the burden, as it is part of the price we pay.

Netanyahu does not want this war to end. On the contrary, he wants a state of emergency.

K. : But how do you connect the question of quality government with the “quality” of the way a war is led, by the same people you consider unfit to govern?

ES : Netanyahu does not want this war to end. He wants a state of emergency for 10 years. Once he implements a permanent state of emergency, he will not move. This is why we don’t need him as a leader. This war should have ended five months ago. What’s the gain for the Israeli army? It could have been achieved in six weeks. What are we now ? Seven months? But for him, it can take 100 years. This is why somebody who is full of conflict of interest can’t run a state and even less in a war. Look what happened today : We need to get a decision about the hostages. But he’s too afraid from Ben Gvir and Smotrich who threaten him they will collapse his government. A normal Prime Minister would tell them to go to hell. You don’t want to be in the coalition ? I’m ready and willing to go to the election tomorrow morning. But no, he knows that this is his last chance to survive. This is why he’s manipulated by these two fascists. He’s running for his life. This is lunatic. This is against the benefit of Israel.

K. : Netanyahu is the bribee, and the briber, he’s corrupt and he is corrupting at the same time.

ES : Yes. He also pays the Orthodox to stay in his coalition. All these coalition funds, this is a bribe. He takes citizens money to give it to them. Why to them? You give money to people to study, great. But you can study Medicine, you can study law, you can study Torah, what’s the difference ? 

We do face very severe problems and they all came together : the regime coup, the war and the rotten leadership. And one is indicated in all others. This is something which threatens our very existence.

K. : Do you hope that your case in June will destroy the coalition?

ES : I see this as the most significant threat to his government. If the court orders the army to recruit Orthodox individuals, I believe the Orthodox community will be motivated to topple the government. They would likely prefer to prompt elections and seek new political alliances. They will try to find a new horse, somebody else to deal with them because if Netanyahu can’t deliver anymore, he’s ready for jail. They will say: “Thank you Mr Netanyahu, it was nice meeting you.”

Interview with Eliad Shraga by Julia Christ & Elie Petit


1 The High Court of Justice and the Supreme Court are in fact the same institution in Israel. The Supreme Court sits as the High Court of Justice when exercising its function of judicial review of the acts of the executive and legislative branches.
2 The interview was conducted before the aforementioned prosecutor officially announced that he had asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for Netanyahu, his Defense Minister and the three main Hamas leaders.

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