Through the course of 2014 many important achievements were recorded thanks to the public and legal activities of the Movement for Quality Government – Listed below are some examples:
The natural gas monopoly – a dramatic breakthrough: On December 23rd, 2014, the antitrust regulator withdrew his earlier consent to the approval given by him to the natural gas partnership, and instead announced he will act to dismantle Tshuva’s gas monopoly. This was achieved after our long battle in which we have sent numerous requests along with position papers with professional evaluations by experts to the regulator. This is important news to the Israeli economy and a significant step against the gas tycoons’ capital and threats. The battle continues despite the enormous pressure by gas barons, lobbyists and PR agents. We will not stop fighting in all public fronts against the danger of establishing a gas monopoly, which has unprecedented significance to the Israeli economy, society and democracy.
Halting members of the Knesset’s automatic wage increase – A major victory: After the MK wage was updated and raised to 39,372 NIS, we launched a public campaign against this increase. We emphasized in the campaign that in the past few years, the MK wage enjoyed an automatic increase several times to a point in which the salary is higher than accepted for parliament members around the world, all the more so in a time of a financial crisis. The campaign was a huge success with over 30,000 Israelis signing our petition. 44 Knesset members accepted our call to dismiss the increase and announced their support in such an act. Eventually, thanks to our campaign, in June 2014, the Knesset wage committee recommended canceling the increase in MK salary and in November 2014 the committee recommended to no longer link it to the the National average salary so that this coming year if this recommendation is accepted, there will be no raise.
Expelling mayors charged with criminal offences: Following our petition to the Supreme Court to remove from office mayors charged with criminal offences, the Knesset passed a law which allows suspending mayors who are charged with severe indictments thus proceeding to suspending both Shlomi Lahiani (Bat Yam) and Shimon Gapso (Nazareth Illit).
The Israel Investment Center (IIC): In February 2014 we recorded a huge achievement when the court validated our agreements with the IIC (Israeli Investment Center) in a binding verdict. MQGs petition discussed the 2.5 billion NIS granted by the IIC (of the Ministry of Economy) to various companies even when they didn’t fulfill their obligations. The petition achieved a number of important victories: The number of companies that received a grant waiver dropped from 133 in previous years to only one since the petition was filed. Additionally, the petition brought a more transparent conduct of the IIC and it will publish its detailed resolutions online as well as its board meetings protocols. Through the course of 2014, millions of NIS of debt were collected back to public funds and we are continuing to monitor the process.
Compromised/wrong appointment tenders: MQG caused the cancellation of an unlawful and questionable tender after filing a lawsuit to the Regional Labor Court in Tel Aviv demanding the cancellation of the tender for appointing the CEO of Rishon Le Zion’s Deputy Mayor’s office. The petition was filed due to the fact that the tender included a requirement stating that the candidate must have at least 5 years of public experience in the religious sector. This requirement is discriminatory and irrelevant to the position of a Deputy Mayor, who is supposed to serve the entire city’s population and disqualifies competent candidates. This requirement raises the suspicion that the tender was rigged to suit a specific candidate. As said, the tender for the appointment was cancelled following MQGs lawsuit. Furthermore, an MQG appeal succeeded to suspend a nomination for the religious county chief in the Ministry of Education since it didn’t require basic skills such as managerial experience in the field of education even when the position is a senior executive position in the education system.
The Salt Soil Supreme Court Ruling: In March 2014 we recorded a very important achievement. The Supreme Court accepted MQGs appeal against the agreements between the salt companies and the Israel Land Administration giving the salt companies outrageous benefits in state lands. The verdict cancelled those agreements after 11 years of discussions. Initially it was agreed to allow 2 km originaly used for salt mining to be urbanized.
Publishing protocols of the arbitration between the state and ICL: In February 2014, we recorder another huge victory when the court rejected ICL’s appeal (filed after our petition) and ordered it to publish to the public the arbitration agreements between the state and ICL regarding the 291 million USD of unpaid royalties – an arbitration that was conducted away from the supervising eye of the public.
The Dolphinarium Plan – An affair reeking of Crony Capitalism: After years of neglecting the Dolphinarium compound, billionaire Josef Buchman is about to receive an estimated 1.3 billion NIS worth of real estate rights for evacuating the neglected compound worth 30 times less than that, all from public funds. This is due to a deal made with The Municipality of Tel Aviv. In October 2014, we succeeded in preventing a closed discussion of the regional planning committee which would not have allowed the public’s objection to be heard. In December 2014 the compensation clause was cancelled by the committee for rewriting.
Preventing municipality board members charged with public money embezzlement from working on financial related matters: Following an MQG petition, the court of administrative matters ruled an important precedent in which board members charged with grave embezzlement of public funds will not be invloved in financial matters and will not be appointed as head of any committees.
Demonstrations in Tel Aviv: After 7 years of struggle, the Supreme Court accepted MQGs position and criticized The Municipality of Tel Aviv’s position, charging sums reaching thousands of Shekels for the right to demonstrate in the city. The court ruled in its verdict that there is no justification for charging citizens and organizations money for demonstrating in public areas. This is an important legal and civil achievement with a direct effect on thousands of Israeli citizens and their constitutional right to protest.
The whistleblowers protection act: In November 2014 the Knesset finally approved a bill we participated along with MK Miki Rosenthal in writing and promoting. This bill is an important amendment to the law meant to put an end to an absurd reality where many whistleblowers who expose public corruption do not receive proper protection by the State Comptroller due to the simple fact that the law lacks a clear definition for corruption. According to the bill, the State Comptroller will be able to provide protection to anyone who uncovers any unlawful or improper conduct. It is a critical bill because protecting whistleblowers is not only an act of gratitude we owe as a society to those brave people in the front of the battle against corruption, but an important step in fighting corruption itself, in which honest people are subject to threats and harassments. So long as those are enabled, we will not be able to reveal the undersurface of the corruption iceberg.
Authorities refraining to report a freedom of Information report: All public authorities in Israel are obligated to publish an annual report of their conduct and activities. MQG listed 70 public authorities, many of which municipal, and discovered that many of them do not obey the law. Most authorities (The President’s residence, The Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures Ltd., Rehovot municipality And more) complied with our demand to publish their activity, whereas the rest were taken to court.
The New Town Square: In the last year we have extended our social networks activity and reached over 90,000 likes on our Facebook page. A number MKs, journalists and decision makers cannot ignore. Along with our Facebook page fans we managed to raise a successful campaign against raising the MKs wage which is already 4 times higher than the national average wage.