Monthly Report Headlines | December 2015

The Conviction of Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, a former prime minister will be sent to jail. This is not only a conviction of Ehud Olmert, but also a conviction of a political and public culture that needs to disappear. When a former prime minister is sent to prison, it is a sign of moral turpitude for him, but it is also a sign of the soberness and maturity of society in Israel. It is a day of sadness mixed with a modicum of hope for a more moral future. There is a clear message here for all those who are elected and serve the public: “You must perform your duties with devotion, honesty, transparency, and a sense of mission.”

An Appeal to the Supreme Court Due of The Failings in The Appointment of The New Attorney General: MQG lodged an appeal charging that the appointment process of the new Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit was full of deficiencies both in the conduct of the search committee and in the way the Justice Minister made administrative decisions. “The recommendations of the search committee were made while the committee deviated from the mandate it received, thus transgressing the purpose of its existence and handcuffing the government’s ability for independent judgement. The flawed recommendations – recommending only one candidate (Mandelblit) instead of three –  were given to the Justice Minister who in turn chose to make an administrative decision without authority, thereby raising the suspicion that she was motivated by extraneous and personal factors.

MQG Against The Appointment of Arye Deri to Become Minister of The Interior: Following assessments in the media that the Prime Minister intends to appoint Arye Deri to the position of Minister of the Interior, MQG turned to the Prime Minister demanding that he refrain from such an appointment. We also called on the Attorney General to issue a clear opinion on the matter. The last time Deri served as Minister of the Interior it resulted in his funneling huge amounts of public funds into his own pockets, his conviction for bribery, and ended in his imprisonment. Thus, there is no justification for appointing him to the same office again. In the opinion of the Movement, Deri, as well as convicted criminals in general, must not become government ministers, and certainly not return to the very setting where they carried out their previous serious crimes of bribery and corruption.

Land in Mevasseret Tzion – The State Awards Hundreds of Millions of Shekels to Jewish Agency Employees’ Pension Fund: As a result of the MQGs appeal to the Supreme Court, the inexplicable conduct of the Government was exposed regarding the land on which the Ethiopian Immigrant Absorption Center (Merkaz Klita) stands in Mevasseret Tzion. The Jewish Agency received land totaling 51 dunams (land which when previously planned to be sold by public tender, was valued at approximately 250 million shekels), and through a mysterious process, the Jewish Agency managed to transfer the land to the pension and retirement fund of the Agency’s employees. This fund is a completely private entity. According to the response of the State to the Movement’s appeal, the transfer contract used the term “lodgings” instead of “lodgings for immigrants”, and because of this “mistake” in one word, the public designation of the land became a commercial one. Thus, the value of the land was multiplied by an enormous amount. In addition to this blunder, there were contracts which disappeared and reappeared with hand written corrections on them, actions which did not receive approval from the relevant committees. It is difficult not to get the impression that these mistakes are not actually mistakes. Thanks to our appeal, the flawed procedure was not only exposed, but the matter will now have to be referred anew to the authorities which should have been involved in the approval process in the first place.

The Appointment of Activists From the Finance Minister’s Political Party to Key Positions in The Planning Authority: According to reports in the media, three central activists in the election campaign of the “Kulanu” Party were recently appointed as heads of planning committees, which are subordinate to the Minister of Finance and are considered to be one of the most important positions in the sphere of planning and building. The Movement turned to the Finance Minister and to the Finance Ministry demanding explanations for these appointments in order to determine whether these candidates revealed their political ties with the Finance Minister’s party and whether the appointments were carried out according to rules of proper administration and full disclosure. In the course of the Movement’s elucidations, another disturbing problem was revealed: The Ministry of Finance claimed that the Planning Commission was still under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, whereas the Ministry of the Interior insisted that the matter was the responsibility of the Finance Ministry.

Appeal to the Supreme Court Against The Natural Gas Agreement: MQG, along with Adam Teva V’Din and The Israel Forum for Energy, filed a petition to the Supreme Court demanding that the Natural Gas Agreement with Noble Energy and the Delek Group (Yitzhak Teshuva) be completely cancelled. In the petition, we called attention to the fact that the steps taken by the government to neutralize the Antitrust Commissioner and the Court For The Prevention of Monopolies were exceptional, hasty, tendentious, inappropriate, not transparent and unauthorized. The entire process by which the Gas Agreement was established was fundamentally flawed, and it was clearly created in order to satisfy the giant monopoly of Yitzhak Teshuva and Noble Energy and prevent the law from ending said monopoly. In its appeal, MQG demands that the government reopen negotiations regarding the Gas Agreement from a position of strength and not from a position of surrender to the tycoons – protecting the public interest and not that of the gas monopoly. The Supreme Court justices are allowing time for the government to respond, and will be moving the appeal to be heard before an expanded panel of judges.

An Appeal to The Supreme Court Against The Removal of The Chairman of the Electricity Authority In Light of Her Opposition to The Gas Agreement: MQG appealed to the Supreme Court demanding that the dismantling of the Electricity Authority be stopped and the ousting of the chairman of the Authority, Orit Farkash-Hacohen, be cancelled (Hacohen was fired for expressing a professional opinion critical of the government’s flawed policy regarding the gas market). We must not accept an action that deals a fatal blow to the independence of the Electricity Authority by making it subordinate to the Minister of Energy, a move that was approved undemocratically by means of the Arrangements Bill. Likewise, we cannot accept the firing of the Authority’s chairman. We must safeguard regulators who are independent and professional, and the firing of a regulator simply for performing her duty may end up creating a situation wherein regulators are required to fall in line with politicians—rather than expressing their professional opinions.

MQG Calls For Stopping The Sale of The of Israelis’ Pensions to a Chinese Company Suspected of Criminal Activity: MQG turned to the Commissioner of Insurance demanding to cancel the deal by which the Chinese company Fosun stands to receive the right of control over the Phoenix Insurance Company, which administers a large part of Israelis’ pensions. This deal is dangerous for many reasons: Control over pensions would be transferred from entity to entity instead of being returned to the public; The dangerous monopoly in the pension market would be reinforced; Control would be transferred to a foreign concern which the Israeli authorities would find it difficult to regulate and ensure that said concern would protect the interests of Israeli pensioners; Control would be transferred specifically to a Chinese company—which operates in a market whose debt has grown threefold in recent years and in which transparency is among the lowest in the world; And above all, control would be transferred wittingly to Fosun, whose CEO was recently arrested by Chinese police in suspicion of criminal offences (It should be noted that we previously made a similar appeal in the case of Clal Insurance Company).

Monopoly in The Honey Market: As part of our battle to dismantle the cartels and monopolies in the agricultural sector, we are currently at a critical stage regarding the honey industry—a monopolistic market in which the two principle vendors control close to 80% of the market, and sell honey at prices which are sometimes almost 4 times higher than those seen abroad. The Movement presented the Government ministers a detailed position paper and called on them to support the proposed bill of Sharren Haskel. This bill would correct one of the distortions in the honey market which is manifested by the completely monopolistic status of the Honey Board. The Movement sent an urgent appeal to the members of the Ministerial Committee calling on them to support the proposed bill which would correct this historical distortion by establishing a fair, transparent, competitive, and egalitarian system for granting honey production permits, and which would be beneficial for all bee-keepers and also for the Israeli consumer.

Recent Activity of the Movement in The Area of Municipal Government: Over 50% of the Movement’s activity is in the area of municipal government, and even though this doesn’t make headlines, it is actually a sphere in which  a great deal of corruption takes place and a great amount of public money is improperly spent. Recently, the Movement approached the Gilboa Regional Council following reports involving suspicions of political appointments, irregularities, deficiencies, appointments of relatives, appointments without public tenders, conflicts of interest and more. MQG also approached the Kafar Kassem Council regarding suspicions of the appointment of a relative of the mayor to a senior position, as well as other irregularities; Naharia,  where the Movement is working with the Ministry of the Interior and the State Ombudsman to clarify suspicions of the use of strong-armed tactics by the Mayor, maltreatment of employees, waste of public funds, running city council meetings undemocratically and without proper transparency, attempts to prevent oversight, refusal to reveal unfavorable reports, and even threats of dismissal to the municipal Comptroller.

MQGs Annual Convention: MQGs annual convention took place on 16/12/2015 at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. Panel discussions were held with the participation of Knesset Members, public figures, leading experts, media personalities, protest activists, and public opinion makers. At the conclusion of the Day, a ceremony took place granting the Knight of Quality Government awards. The honorees included MK Orly Levi Abeksis; Orit Farkash Hacohen; Judge Eliezer Rivlin; Retired Judge Hila Gerstl, Ombudsman of the Office of State Prosecutors; Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon; Retired General Yohanan Locker who headed the commission for examining the defense budget; Moshe Lichtman, investigative journalist for Globes; Yoel Neuman, among the whistleblowers at the Shomron Development Company; Capt. Tzvika K’fir, who fought against improprieties and corruption at Ashdod Port; Jaida Rinawi Zo’abi, chairman of the NGO Anjaz; and Barak Medina, an expert in constitutional law at the Hebrew University.