Monthly Report Headlines | August 2015

The Deri Verdict: MQG petitioned the Supreme Court to invalidate the appointment of Aryeh Deri as a government minister. Deri is a criminal, convicted of accepting bribes during a previous ministership, an offense of such severity as to impart a dark stain on the government of Israel and its public service. We also pointed out that Deri has never accepted responsibility for his actions nor expressed regret regarding them. The position of the Movement is that the appointment of Deri is beyond the bounds of reason. Given the importance of this matter and its effect on the norms of government in Israel, we requested that the Court hold an additional examination of its previous verdict. In our petition, the Movement maintained that the Court had altered existing policy in a manner that brought about the grave result whereby a criminal convicted of bribery is currently serving in the role of a senior minister.

The Gas Agreement Needs to be Reformatted: The movement called on all the members of the Cabinet to abstain from approving the revised gas agreement, or, alternatively, to transfer it for approval to the Kenesset, in view of the many deficiencies contained in it. This should be done especially in light of the new developments in the regional gas market. We further requested a thorough examination of the expert opinions which justified approval of the agreement for reasons related to foreign relations and national security. In its present form there lies a real danger to Israeli democracy, because the agreement approves a formidable gas monopoly. According to the position of the Movement, the present agreement not only fails to encourage competition in the gas market, it even anchors and strengthens the monopolistic status of the gas companies which own the large gas fields. The agreement does this by, among other means, obligating the government not to carry out any structural or taxation changes in the gas market for the coming decade. This anchoring for years into the future will tie the hands of the government, preventing it from establishing limits to the power of the gas companies.

A Call to Block the Attempt to Weaken the Independence of the Electricity Authority via the Arrangements Bill: The Movement called on the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Finance and of Energy to block the attempt to include the reform of the Electricity Authority in the arrangements bill, and to prevent the planned weakening of the independence of the Electricity Authority. According to the position of the Movement, the proposed changes in the arrangements bill empty the role of the Electricity Authority of all regulatory clout and remove from it its power and independence by making its members subservient to the Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water.

The Dismissal of the Chairman of the Electricity Authority: The Movement called on the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Infrastructure to reverse their decision that for all intents and purposes dismisses the Chairman of the Electricity Authority. In the meantime the move should be cancelled at once. In our opinion the step was illegal and absolutely contrary to the rules of proper administration. According to the position of the Movement, the Cabinet’s decision is in contradiction to the principles outlined in the law regulating the electricity market in that it bypasses the procedures and regulations which were laid down in the law for terminating the Chairman of the Electricity Authority.

The Commission for Investigating the Events of the Gay-Pride Parade in Jerusalem: Following the petition of the Movement to examine the conflict of interest related to the appointment of one of the members of the commission for investigating the conduct of the Police regarding the gay-pride parade in Jerusalem, the Minister of Internal Security, Gil’ad Erdan, consulted the Acting Commissioner of Police, Bentsi Sau. Subsequently, the two of them decided that, even though the composition of the Commission was approved by the Legal Advisor to the Police, Assistant Inspector Anna Ben-Mordehai would be replaced so as not to create the appearance of a conflict of interest in her appointment.

Incitement Against Ultra-Orthodox Soldiers: Following the exposure of the campaign of incitement and vilification against members of the ultra-orthodox sector and yeshiva graduates who are serving in the army, the Movement for Quality Government called on the Attorney General and the Acting Police Commissioner to open a criminal investigation and to work to eradicate these illegal activities. The incitement has included, among other actions, publicizing the names and particulars of members of the ultra-orthodox community who encourage enlistment into the army—along with offensive and scornful remarks. Publication of the personal particulars of those doing this important work has led to a crusade of incessant threats and harassment against them by ultra-orthodox extremists— a crusade which has failed to elicit an adequate response from those responsible for enforcing the law.

A Call for Suspension of Yair Geller, Chairman of the Authority for the War on Drugs: The Movement for Quality Government called on the Minister for Internal Security and the Civil Service Commissioner to act to suspend the Chairman of the Authority for the War on Drugs, Yair Geller, and to reduce or stop his salary during the period of suspension. Our action was a result of the exclusion of Geller from the activities of the Authority 8 months ago, because he was suspected of the crimes of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, aggravated fraud, and conspiracy to commit a crime. All this occurred as part of the broad corruption scandal that was exposed in December, 2014, and became known as the “Yisrael Beytenu Affair”.

The Taxation of Natural Resources: MQG called on the Special Ministerial Committee for the Economy not to bow to the pressure brought by the Israel Chemical Ltd. (ICL) to change the proposed regulation for anchoring in law the guidelines for taxing profits from the exploitation of natural resources. Moreover, the Committee should not capitulate to the threats of ICL that it will fire thousands of workers if the government does not give in to its demands. Such threats, in fact, are in violation of the obligations of ICL according to its bylaws as a government licensee, among which it is obligated to keep its and its subsidiaries’ centers of business and administration in Israel.

The Meeting of the Prime Minister with the Senior Members of the Israel Corporation: MQG petitioned the Office of the Prime Minister according to the laws of freedom of information to receive all information pertaining to the meetings that the Prime Minister, the members of his office, or any others acting in his behalf, held with senior officials from the Israel Corporation and ICL, particularly over the past 2 years. This request was a result of reports in the media according to which Idan Ofer, who holds the controlling interest in the Israel Corporation, and Nir Gil’ad, previously the CEO of the Israel Corporation and now the chairman of the Board of Directors of ICL, met with the Prime Minister at a time when the Government of Israel was weighing the possibility of making large-scale concessions regarding arrangements for taxing profits made by ICL through the exploitation of natural resources.

Opposition to Splitting the Roles of the Attorney General: MQG called on the Minister of Justice not to split the roles of the Attorney General (The Attorney General functions as the legal advisor to the Government regarding its actions, and also has the responsibility of recommending whether or not to bring indictments against public officials). The Movement stressed to the Minister the fact that splitting the Attorney General’s roles could have the effect of destroying the rule of law in Israel, and that part of the supporters of the idea of the splitting, in its various forms, are doing so in order to free the politicians from the shackles of the law and the fear of its enforcement upon them: “Israel is not secure enough in its respect for the law as to allow the making of such changes without incurring the possible collapse of the rule of law. Destroying the last bastion of the rule of law in Israel, even for the purpose of rebuilding it, represents a genuine threat to that rule and to the faith of the public in the agencies of government in general, and in the system of law enforcement in particular.”

Petition to the State Ombudsman to Open an Investigation of the City of Nahariah: The Movement appealed to the State Ombudsman and to the Ministry of the Interior to investigate the complaints and reports concerning improper administration in the Nahariah Municipality which have appeared in the media in recent months. The focus of these complaints has been mayor Jacky Sabag and his behavior toward municipal employees, members of the city council, residents of Nahariah, and others.

Our Request for an Interim Injunction to Prevent Minister Galant from Appointing a Representative on his Behalf to the Board of the Israel Lands Authority: Following the Movement’s appeal against the appointment of Galant to the position of Construction Minister, and with the receipt of the updating announcement on behalf of the State, according to which Minister Galant regained the authority to appoint a representative on his behalf to the Board of the Israel Lands Authority—in contradiction to the previous announcement that the State had made to the Court—the Movement petitioned the Court to issue an interim injunction preventing said appointment until the final Court decision is handed down.

A Call for the Establishment of a New Public Broadcasting Authority: MQG called on the Prime Minister to appoint the 12 members of the Board of the Public Broadcasting Authority who were selected by the search committee headed by retired judge Ezra Kama according to the Public Broadcasting Law, and to pass their candidacies on to the Brenner Commission for approval. Inaugurating the Board’s term is required by the principle of the rule of law which demands that the law be carried out as soon as feasible in order to achieve the goals of the law, including the independence of the Board, —as well as by the requirements of proper administration .