Monthly Report Headlines | 2016

MQG Requests That Its Opinion be Heard by the Court in The Trial of Rafi Rotem: Rafi Rotem, an outstanding official in the Tax Authority who dared to complain about corruption in his workplace—has been suffering for 13 years from a campaign of severe harassment: negative evaluations of his job performance instead of the laudatory ones he had received consistently over the years; complaints against him to the police; transfer to jobs with lower salaries; and in the end, dismissal. In the course of the years of struggle by the Movement on Rotem’s behalf, he was granted the official status of “Whistle-blower” by the State Comptroller and was given a Protection Order. Nevertheless, of late, legal proceedings have been instituted against him, and the Movement has requested the right to join the proceedings as a “friend of the court”. This is in order to be able to present to the court the broader picture relating to the course of events in the Rotem affair, as well as to discuss the subject of “whistle-blowing” in general. The Movement is of the opinion that the indictment against Rotem should be dismissed and that he should be granted the status of “protected from abuse of process”.

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Rafi Rotem

Appeal – After The Plea-Bargain, We Demand The Completion of The Investigation of Those Involved in Rav Pinto Affair: Rabbi Y. Pinto, who was convicted of bribery and obstruction of justice, was allowed a light and lenient plea bargain, following which he received a ridiculously short jail sentence relative to the severity of the crimes he committed. The State Prosecutor justified this on the grounds that Rabbi Pinto possessed crucial information that would lead to an investigation of Police Inspector Menashe Arbiv. However, despite the lengthy time that has passed, it appears that no such investigation is taking place. For this reason we appealed to the court demanding that once and for all the entire investigative process be carried out regarding this affair, including the investigation of Inspector Arbiv—and, in addition, that there be no early release of Pinto or shortening of his sentence. Furthermore, we called on the State Prosecutor and the Attorney General to initiate legal proceedings against Rabbi Pinto himself who appears not to be fulfilling his end of the plea-bargain agreement. Moreover, with regard to the importance of carrying out the broader investigations, it must not be seen that the lightening of Pinto’s punishment (to get him to yield information) was for naught.

Do Not Give The Stock Exchange to The Banks as a Gift: The Kenesset is currently considering a law proposed by the government that would change the structure of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. However, the proposed law would have the exact opposite effect of the one declared as its purpose. The law will establish a monopoly of the banks over the exchange; will reduce competition; will bring about an increase in the bank fees that the public will have to pay; and will in effect grant the banks a huge gift worth billions of shekels at the expense of the public—and at no cost to the banks. Moreover, in essence, the public will have to buy, through financial institutions, assets that already belong to it. The Movement presented a paper with the details of its position to members of the Kenesset, and this month also requested a postponement of the discussion of the law to a time that will allow a more thorough evaluation. This would permit members of the Kenesset to delve more deeply into the matter, to give voice to their opinions, and to not just pass the law in underhanded haste.

Do Not Pass The Law Abolishing The Requirement That The Core Curriculum Be Taught in All Schools Receiving Government Funding: The Movement appealed to the Minister of Education and the Minister of Justice demanding the cancellation of the proposed law. Several years ago, as a result of a court appeal by the Movement, an amendment to the law was accepted, representing a huge achievement. However, we are now witnessing attempts by the Government to cancel that achievement. We are talking about an achievement of significant benefit to the public. The requirement that the core curriculum (English, mathematics, science) be taught protects the basic rights of the pupils themselves, and will enable them in the future to support themselves with dignity without becoming a burden on society. Moreover, the law that was passed in response to our appeal laid out clear and transparent criteria for providing public funding to schools. Nevertheless, the new proposed bill will in essence abolish our important achievement and permit political considerations to adversely affect the educational process. In addition, in a peculiar move, only a few days have been allotted during which the public can comment on the proposed legal memorandum—a fact that raises the suspicion that this represents an attempt to pass the law in underhanded haste.

Why Isn’t The Shamgar Commission Report (Regarding Soldiers Captured or Missing in Action) Being Made Public? The commission that was convened to develop government policy regarding the conduct of future negotiations involving kidnapped or missing soldiers, under the chairmanship Meir Shamgar, the former President of the Supreme Court, presented its recommendations to the Minister of Defense and to the Government after 4 years of deliberation. Nevertheless, these recommendations have not been made public. Because of the importance of this topic to the public, the Movement called on the Minister of Defense demanding the publication of the Shamgar Commission’s conclusions.

An Imprtant Achievement – For The First Time, Antitrust Laws Have Blocked Monopolistic Expansion by a Tycoon: The commission for reducing market concentration has prevented the Israel Corporation of the Ofer Family from expanding into the oil business. The commission exercised its authority according to the antitrust laws (whose drafting and advancement we aided vigorously). This ruling was handed down after we called on the commission to so rule. After the Ofer Family’s corporation gained control of the Dead Sea, of water desalination, of phosphate mining and of fuel refining—considerations of monopolistic concentration and lack of competition demand that other companies be the ones allowed to enter the oil market—and not once again the companies of the Ofer Family. This is the first instance in which the Antitrust Commission has exercised its authority under the antitrust laws in order to block the expansion of monopolistic forces in the market. Furthermore, we all remember how several months ago the Israel Chemical Corporation (also under the control of the Ofer’s) took advantage of its monopolistic strength in phosphate mining in order to paralyze the whole of the southern region of Israel for the purpose of exerting pressure on the government.

Are Attempts Again Being Made to Sell The Pension Funds of Israeli Citizens to China? As a result of our actions in this matter, 2 business deals to sell Israeli pension funds to Chinese investors were cancelled. Nevertheless, it now appears that another deal is brewing to transfer control of the Phoenix Insurance Company. We appealed to the Insurance Commissioner to prevent this from happening. Such deals are dangerous for many reasons: control over pension funds is being transferred from investor to investor rather than being returned to the public where it belongs; dangerous concentration in the pension market is being solidified; control is being transferred to a foreign concern which will be difficult for Israeli authorities to supervise and ensure that the interests of Israeli pensioners are protected; transfer of control to a Chinese company is especially risky, since debt in the Chinese market has risen 3-fold in recent years and transparency in the Chinese market is among the lowest in the world. The Movement demands that instead of this planned sale, shares be issued for purchase by the public in Israel, thereby returning to it control over its own pension funds— instead of reinforcing the dangerous monopolistic dominance by select groups.

An Appeal to The State Comptroller – Initiate a Special Investigation into The Establishment of The New Israel Broadcasting Authority: Because the commencement of the functioning of The New Israel Broadcasting Authority has been postponed over and over again (despite the hiring of new employees and the firing of old ones, etc…), and because the postponements were decided upon clandestinely, without transparency, and without informing the public of the reasons for the numerous deferrals, it would appear that many special interests are interfering in the decision-making process and introducing narrow political considerations into the procedure. The impression is that the whole process of establishing the Broadcasting Authority has become overly cumbersome and complicated, and thus wasteful of a great deal of public funds. The Movement, therefore, has called on the State Comptroller to initiate a special investigation into the founding process, and the conduct of the Broadcast Authority’s managers as well as the external players who are involved in the process—among them, the Minister of Communications.

Is The State Consistently Late in Filing Its Responses to The Courts in Civil Suits? According to a report by the auditor of the State Prosecutor’s Office, said office uniformly fails to comply with the regulations regarding the time requirements for filing its defense briefs in response to civil suits against the State. Moreover, the courts routinely accept the State’s requests for extensions on its time to respond. This behavior damages the proper conduct of court cases, wastes time, leads to court “deliberations” of no benefit, and harms the rights of those bringing suit. Because of this deplorable state of affairs, the Movement called on the Ministry of Justice to remedy the situation.

Our Demand – Make Public The Travel Expenses of The Prime Mister’s Family: The Movement appealed to the court demanding access to information regarding the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of guarding the Prime Minister’s family members (his sons in particular) during trips abroad. After previous requests by the Movement to obtain the information were to no avail, the Movement is now appealing to the court. Furthermore, in a different appeal, the Movement requested access to the detailed expenses for the Prime Minister’s trip to Africa— which, according to press reports, amounted to 28 million shekels. It has been argued that this is largest expenditure ever for a Prime Ministerial trip abroad.

We Demand of The State Comptroller – Examine How Nochi Dankner Was Allowed to Endanger The Israeli Economy: Beginning in the middle of the 1990’s, the IDB Group became one of the largest business conglomerates in the economy of Israel. It held some 250 companies and influenced our lives in innumerable spheres. Yet, even then the Movement warned that the IDB Group was purchased and conducted with very high leverage and was taking tremendous risks with the public’s money. Nevertheless, not a single one of the various regulatory agencies felt it was necessary to intervene with respect to the running of the individual companies or the behavior of the overall chairman. Most of the process of “learning the lessons” following the collapse of IDB—which endangered the total Israeli economy—focused on corporate and financial factors. However, no critical investigations have been undertaken with regard to the malfunction of Israel’s regulatory “gatekeepers“, who fell asleep at the wheel with respect to the IDB Group. IDB’s peculiar business deals were so often totally lacking in economic logic and put at risk monies of the Israeli public as well as the whole national economy. Moreover, the conduct of Nochi Dankner in other affairs was in the end proven in court to be criminal. How is it possible that none of these occurrences appeared on the radar screens of Israel’s gatekeepers? The Movement demands that the State Comptroller carry out a serious examination of this matter.

Recent Activities of MQG on The Municipal Front: Here are some examples of our recent activities at the municipal government level.

  • Naharia — The Movement called on the official responsible for freedom of information in the municipality demanding access to the information relevant to the establishment of the city’s new plaza reported to cost some 5 million shekels.
  • Holon — The Movement appealed to the court because of the suspicion that the appointment of the head of a municipal company involved a conflict of interest and abuse of political power.
  • Tel Aviv — The Movement presented an appeal to the court demanding that it prevent the appointment of the new City Comptroller. We pointed out that the proposed appointee has a conflict of interest because she held a position in a municipal company, that she made a misrepresentation to the municipality, and that she does not meet the minimum qualifications necessary for the job.
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