Monthly Report Headlines | October 2015

Winners of the Knight of Quality Government Awards for 2015: The public committee headed by retired Justice of the Supreme Court Dalia Dorner chose retired Supreme Court Justice and Assistant Court President Eliezer Rivlin as this year’s winner of the Knight of Quality Government in the field of the Judicial Authority. An additional winner of the award was retired judge Hila Gerstel, Commissioner for auditing the Department of State Prosecution and State representatives in the lower courts.

The other winners are: Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon of the Likud party, in the category of Political Uprightness; MK Orly Levi-Abekasis from the Yisrael Beytenu party in the category of the Legislative Authority; and attorney Orit Farkash-HaCohen chairwoman of the Electricity Authority. In the category of Army and Security the winner was retired Gen. Yohanan Locker, and in the category of Education and Academia this year’s winner was Professor Barak Medina. In the category of the Struggle for Social Justice thus year’s awardees were Yoel Neuman and Zvika Kfir. In the category of Media and Journalism the winner was Globes journalist Moshe Lichtman. In the category of Local Government the winner was Jaida Rinwai Zo’abi, Chairwoman of the NPO Injaz.

The ceremony for granting the above awards will take place in Tel Aviv on December 16, 2015.

As a Result of Our Petition, The Agreement Involving Minister of Finance Kahlon’s Conflict of Interest Was Made Public: Thanks to our petition, in which we requested the Court to instruct the Attorney General to justify his not having rendered a judicial opinion which would disqualify Kahlon from dealing with the natural gas issue, the Attorney General ruled that Kahlon is likely to be in a situation of conflict of interest in all matters pertaining to the production and marketing of natural gas. Moreover, the Attorney General declared that the Finance Minister’s authority in this matter should be transferred to another minister. Such is the picture which arises from the State’s precedent-setting response to the petition of the Movement for Quality Government to the High Court of Justice. As part of the State’s response to the High Court following our petition, the State included the settlement with Kahlon regarding his conflicts of interest—spelling out the additional areas which the Minister would be prevented from handling—including matters involving real estate associated with his friend Koby Maimon, the Jerusalem Municipality, and others.

Ending the Automatic Rise in the Salaries of MK’s: MQG called on the full Kenesset membership to oppose the rise in their salaries expected in January, 2016. This was due to the fact that these salaries are updated automatically and are currently 4 times the average salary in Israel. Moreover, the salaries are tens of percent higher than those of most parliaments in the world. In the opinion of the Movement, no one disputes the fact that MK’s deserve a suitable salary. Never the less, the above comparative figures, which attest to the large gaps between the salaries of the general public and those of Members of the Kenesset —alongside the fact that the MK’s themselves determine their own salaries while disregarding the recommendations of the Public Commission—is likely to be interpreted as disrespect toward the voters, leading to irreparable damage to the faith of the public in the Kenesset. As a result of public pressure, led by the Movement, the Public Commission has recommended that the salary of MK’s be frozen, and that the scheduled salary increase be cancelled.

A Call to Arrange Compensation for Business Owners Harmed by the Security Situation: MQG turned to the Prime Minister and the members of the National Security Cabinet to support the Government of Israel in its uncompromising battle to restore calm and safety to the citizens of Israel, and to express our full appreciation to the security forces that are on guard day and night. At the same time, the Movement calls on the Government ministers to discuss—even at this stage—the issue of compensation to the business owners in the capital and in other locations who have been severely harmed by the deterioration in the security situation.

Examining the Financial Declaration of Assets of Minister Arye Deri: Recent reports regarding the assets and real estate owned by former Minister of the Economy and current Minister of the Galil and Negev Arye Deri have asserted that prior to the latest elections Deri declared before the media that he owned just one single apartment. In fact, according to these reports, Deri, together with his wife, also owns several other apartments whose total value amounts to 15.5 million shekels. MQG has, therefore, called on State Comptroller Yosef Shapiro and Speaker of the Kenesset MK Yuli Edelstein to examine the veracity of the financial declarations of assets that Deri was supposed to have supplied to the Speaker and the State Comptroller. If said declarations are found to be fallacious, the Movement calls upon the Comptroller and the Speaker to invoke punishment as required by law.

The Electricity Authority: In the face of the forthcoming discussion in the joint commission to deal with the issue of establishing a new Electricity Authority in the framework of the Arrangements Law, the Movement turned to all the members of the commission and presented a position paper in which we explained that the proposed reform (closing the current Electricity Authority and establishing a new one in its place) will cause significant damage to the independent status of the Electricity Authority by making it institutionally subordinate to the Ministry of Energy. The Movement believes that this damage will impair the quality of regulation of the electricity market because of the new Authority’s dependence on a political body. Furthermore, the effect will decrease the certainty and reliability prevalent in the electricity market which are so essential to a market controlled by a government monopoly. Moreover, the Movement appealed to the State Comptroller to make public his position regarding the proposed reform of the Electricity Authority during the discussions of the joint commission in the Kenesset and to release as soon as possible his report on the independence of the Electricity Authority.

A Call to Minister of Justice Shaked to Come to the Defense of the Judicial Authority: MQG called on Justice Minister Shaked to strengthen and buttress the status of the courts in Israel, and that of the Judicial Branch of Government as a whole as one of the three governing authorities in Israel. In this way, the Judicial Branch will be able to stand as a strong, independent and separate authority and continue in its important role in the system of checks and balances in the Government of Israel. It would appear that all constraints of public speech have been breached, and that critics no longer control their words. Thus we are witness to grave condemnations against serving judges and against the judicial establishment in Israel, especially the Supreme Court in its role as the High Court of Justice. Most serious are the consequences of such words on the Israeli public at all levels and strata.

The Botch by the Electric Company in Dealing With the Damage Caused by the Bad Weather: MQG appealed to the State Comptroller and the Commissioner in Charge of Government Companies to open an inquiry into the disaster of the recent brief storm and the actions of the Electric Company in dealing with the damage. Our goal is to learn the appropriate lessons to ensure that the response of the Electric Company to the next emergency will be effective, rapid, and optimal. The recent botch was made evident in the slow and manifestly ineffective dealings of the Electric Company with the many disruptions. According to reports, the failure was caused by a “slowdown” in which Electric Company workers, on the instruction of the workers’ committees, deliberately slowed their repair operations.

We Call for the Verdict to be Carried Out Against Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: MQG appealed to the Attorney General and the State Prosecutor to act to have the judicial proceedings concluded and the verdict against former prime minister Ehud Olmert carried out. We called attention to the fact that Olmert was convicted one and a half years ago. Furthermore, we demanded that a decision be made regarding the criminal investigation against former minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. The significant delays in the above-mentioned processes, with no apparent justification, have caused grave damage to the principle of equality before the law, as well as harm to the faith of the public in the judicial and law enforcement systems.

We Call for a Financial Investigation of the Educational NGO HaMerkaz Ma’ayan HaChinuch HaTorani: MQG appealed to the Ministry of Education for the fourth time requesting that it respond to our questions concerning the financial oversight report into the finances, budget, and activities of the Shas Party’s educational NGO HaMerkaz Ma’ayan HaChinuch HaTorani. Our appeal was made as a result of the Ministry of Education’s disregard for our previous requests, despite the Ministry’s obligation by law to respond. Our request arrives on the heels of the oversight report which was carried out this past June at the request of the Comptroller of the Ministry of Education, who investigated and condemned the management of the educational network HaMerkaz Ma’ayan HaChinuch HaTorani in the Land of Israel.

Refunding Tax Overpayments That Have Been Stolen by the Tax Authority: As a result of the findings of the State Comptroller’s Report that was published this month, MQG called on the Tax Authority to refund the tax overpayments that it pocketed, and to change its practices immediately, so that that tax overpayments will be refunded automatically. In our appeal we wrote: “Taking advantage of the public’s unfamiliarity with the tax laws, and exploitation of the natural apathy of the citizen burdened by the difficulties of daily life, is conduct that is fundamentally flawed and needs to be uprooted at its core.