August 2021

August 2021 Activity Summary Report

Why are there no obligatory rules of ethics for a Prime Minister and for ministers, the way there are for doctors, judges, advocates, psychologists and even Knesset members?

Ministers and their deputies breach regulations set by themselves, appoint cronies, hand out jobs of top-trust positions, distribute fake news and unreliable information, abuse cars and security means allocated to them due to their position, use dirty and insulting language – all of these without fearing any sanctions since there are no ethical rules that oblige ministers. Precisely in this specific period, when citizens are being demanded to fully cooperate with severe restrictions often imposed on them, the Public’s trust in its elected representatives and in the Government’s actions must be strengthened. Behavioral standards expected from persons in such high positions must be applied to the members of the Government – it’s time for them to be subject to an obligatory ethical code. Thousands citizens signed our petition and joined our demand from the Government of Israel: Apply to yourselves and to future governments these ethical rules that are presently missing.

We petitioned the Supreme Court in demand to investigate Netanyahu’s shredding of documents in the PM office a short while before change of government

In this petition we demanded from the Court to order the Attorney General, the State Attorney and the Police to start a criminal investigation following the information that Knesset Member Binyamin Netanyahu, now the Opposition Chairman, shredded documents in the PM’s office just a short while prior to Naftali Bennet’s taking office as PM last June. This is a heavily stinking issue that brings about severe suspicions relating to the shredded documents’ contents and the reasons for erasing them so hastily.  Having been already submerged in criminal suspicions, Netanyahu should be interrogated by the Police also in this case. In addition, there is true suspicion that those shredded documents are connected to the Submarines’ Affair, an issue concerning which all of Netanyahu’s intimates had been interrogated while Netanyahu, miraculously, had been left out. It is unacceptable that a former PM, suspected of committing criminal offenses while serving as one, will dismiss the law just a minute before leaving office. Regretfully, we were forced to turn to the Supreme Court regarding this issue with the hope our request will be accepted. Sweeping such grave suspicions under the carpet is intolerable – the Documents Shredding Affair must be investigated!

After 60 days: How come half of the 28 Government members have not submitted financial statements yet?

According to the rules of Asher Committee for Preventing Conflict of Interest, ministers and their deputies are obliged to submit financial statements to the State Comptroller within 60 days from assuming their tenures. This is a critical factor in preventing conflict of interest, enhancing transparency and reinforcing the Public’s trust in its elected representatives. This way the State Comptroller is able to examine the nature of relationships between politicians and tycoons and determine the issues with which politicians are barred from dealing due to conflict of interests. Ministers and Deputy Ministers had taken their oaths in June 13, 2021 – the day of establishing the current government and so the date for submitting the financial statements has already expired. Besides Minister Eli Avidar and Deputy Minister Yair Golan, who took up their offices at later dates, 14 ministers and deputy ministers simply ignore the rules and refuse to submit their financial statements to the State Comptroller. We contacted these 14 members of  the government: Alternate PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid, Minister of Housing and Construction Ze’ev Elkin, Minister of Economy and Industry Orna Barbivai, Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz, Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg, Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana, Minister of Regional Cooperation Issawi Frej, Minister of Agriculture Oded Forer, Minister of Science and Technology Orit Farkash Hacohen, Minister of Education Yifat Shasha Biton, Minister of Intelligence Elazar Stern, Minister of Interior Ayelet Shaked, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Idan Roll, Deputy in the PM’s office Abir Kara. We demanded from all of these people to submit their financial statements to the State Comptroller. Regarding this issue we also contacted the Attorney General, the State Comptroller and the Government’s Secretary. Our efforts paid off: following our interference, More ministers and deputies submitted their financial statements. Our progress is being reported in real time on the social networking.

We demanded from Minister of Education Yifat Shasha Biton and from the Ministry’s Director General to take the gas corporations out of schools

Journalist Lee Yaronrecently revealed in Ha’aretz that the Ministry of Education has been using Delek’s and Noble Energy’s videos as means of teaching high- school students about energy in Israel. So, what is the problem? Well, Delek and Noble are commercial companies that are also controversial. They have got powerful economic interests that are prior to any public interest. Produced by the gas corporations, these videos allegedly present half-facts while hiding important information regarding the gas’s significant environmental effects and the high costs of gas in Israel. For example, in one of the videos a cartoon figure is shown raising a glass of wine and rejoices: “Come on, let’s get the gas and the oil out already!”. Another quote from the video is the following: “If the development drilling was successful and we found gas or oil – we can rejoice”. The videos’ narrative may enhance the gas companies’ public relations but it is totally untruthful when it comes to reality since there is a unanimous opinion regarding the climate crisis as a result of human usage of fossil fuels. Considering these data, why does the Ministry of Education find such dubious and full of interest materials suitable for teaching young people about energy sources? We implored Minister of Education Yifat Shasha Biton and the Ministry’s Director General Yigal Slovik to remove all of these questionable contents immediately, at least until they have been properly inspected. We also demanded they will refrain from using commercial companies’ materials for teaching any subject.

We demand an investigation in the “New Gifts Affair”: Where have 42 gifts given to Netanyahu during his tenure as Prime Minister gone?

Recently in Ma’ariv, journalist Ben Kaspit reported that Knesset Member Binyamin Netanyahu did not return to the State 42 gifts, estimated to be of particularly high value, he received during his office as Prime Minister. According to this publication, the PM’s Office Legal Counselor Shlomit Barnea asked Netanyahu in private to return the missing gifts to the Office’s designated room; this followed a previous request she submitted to his office and remained unanswered. Some examples of the gifts: The first Bible with Rashi’s commentary (given by the Russian President), a rectangular glass box decorated with gold leaves by artist Stephen Schlanser and a golden eagle statue (given by President of the USA), a silver platter from the French President, a box containing a gold coin from the Pope. Though all of these gifts had been confirmed for display, they had never been returned to the gifts room. A public servant, more so a Prime Minister, is not allowed to receive gifts. In 1999 the Police recommended to prosecute Netanyahu, then a Knesset Member, for suspicion of his intention to appropriate gifts received during his PM tenure. The then Attorney General decided to close the case, issuing instead a grave report criticizing KM Netanyahu’s conduct. Nowadays, due to the heavy suspicion of harming integrity and also of a criminal offense, this new affair should be checked thoroughly and enforcing acts implemented. We demanded so in a letter sent to the Government’s Attorney General and the PM’s Office Legal Counselor.

What’s going on with the Wealth Fund for the Citizens?

For years now the Israeli citizens have not been receiving this part of the gas profits they are entitled to. However, it’s still not too late to rectify this situation. Responding to our request, the Tax Authority has recently published data concerning the collecting of taxes payments from the gas companies. This data prove that the promising forecasts of the government take (GT) from profits according to the Sheshinski Tax are unrealistic. It seems that giant corporations take advantage not only of tax loopholes but also of the limited enforcing capacity of the State and its collection institutions and so they simply refrain from paying the tax money they owe to the Public. This conduct, absurdly, has taken place in spite of the fact that the outline for regulating the gas market had been initially biased in the companies’ favor. These days a proposal for rectifying the Wealth Fund Law is being examined; as much as it is not flawless, we definitely support this move that aims at optimizing the collection of taxes and royalties from the gas companies. In order to advance the proposal’s approval we presented to the members of the Knesset’s Finance Committee our legal concept concerning the Wealth Fund’s failure. We also detailed on the State’s helplessness with regard to the gas companies’ various breaches the way it happened when Noble Energy abused its status as operator of Tamar reservoir and threatened by withholding the gas supply if IEC (Israel Electric Corporation) will not buy this gas at a high price. In spite of the potential danger for Israel’s energetic security, Noble has been never criminally interrogated. 

We addressed the Ministry of Finance concerning the issue of whether the fault of Bituah Leumi (National Insurance) will cost the Public hundreds of millions   

Already years ago a decision had been accepted to establish a reform enabling Bituah Leumi to collect in an efficient and concentrated manner monies that insurance companies owe victims of road accidents. Regulations should have been approved already in 2018 but – –  ministers changed and nothing happened. If the regulations fail from passing, Bituah Leumi will lose hundreds of millions of shekels of public money that will remain in the insurance companies’ pockets. We demanded from the Minister of Finance and from all the relevant factors to advance these necessary regulations in order to enable Bituah leumi to collect this due money.

Advancing toward an investigation committee concerning the Submarines Affair

Another step on the way toward establishing an investigation committee for this case: This August we met two ministers: Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz and Minister of Finance Avigdor Lieberman. The meetings comprised The Movement’s Chairman Adv. Dr. Eliad Shraga and former seniors of Israel Security Forces such as Chief of the General Staff Dan Halutz, Head of the Mossad Tamir Pardo and Major Generals Amos Gilad and Giora Eiland. These meetings took place after we had meetings with Yair Lapid, Gideon Sa’ar and Benny Gantz together with current seniors of the Security Forces. and after Sa’ar and Gantz agreed that their ministries will begin staff work toward establishing the committee.

Defendant Bitan – resign!

Knesset Member David Bitan was charged with taking bribe, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and tax offenses in no less than 7 different affairs. He allegedly committed these offenses while functioning in Rishon LeTsiyon municipality and during his tenure as a Knesset Member and as chairman of the coalition. According to the indictment, Bitan received bribes of over 700,000 shekels in cash in addition to being promised apartments for him and his cronies. In return, Bitan allegedly used his authority, influence, power and linksin order to advanceinterests of real estate entrepreneurs, contractorsand other factors. Such an indictment makes clear that Bitan can’t go on serving as a KM for even one more day. So here we say to Knesset Member Bitan: You were right in giving up the option of requesting immunity, however this is not enough – The parliament of Israel is no place of refuge.

We asked the Knesset Chairman and the Opposition Chairman why establishing the Knesset’s Ethics Committee is being prevented

We demanded from Knesset Chairman Miki Levi and from the Opposition Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu to act for establishing the Knesset’s Ethics Committee – refraining from doing so is against the law. Several times the Knesset Chairman asked the Opposition to appoint its members to the Ethics Committee but the Opposition refuses to let its people join the committee. In fact, the Opposition completely prevents establishing the committee that must comprise two Coalition members and two of the Opposition. The committee’s importance is indisputable: it is in charge of setting norms of proper conduct of elected representatives and of judging the ethics of Knesset members. It is the only factor in the Knesset authorized to sanction misbehaving KMs. The committee must be established promptly!

In the Knesset Committee we asked: Whatever happened to the parties’ financial reports?

According to the Party Financing Law, all parties should have submitted to the State Comptroller their financial reports within 16 weeks from announcing the results of the elections to the 24th Knesset, which means no later than the end of July. Why, then, they voted for postponing the submission by three months? This act violates the principle of transparency of action and harms the Public’s trust in its elected representatives. We explained to the KMs participating in the committee the importance of this issue.

When the Public is ignorant of what’s being done with its money – the Public loses. We’ll make sure that knowledge will be spread all over the country!

Economic struggles not always find their ways to headlines; many readers leaf on past issues like “centralized economy” or “the gas outline”. However these phrases hide billions of billions of shekels that belong to all of us and the Public must be aware of what happens to these sums of money. We established a mobile information stand that passes from one place to another in order to let the Public have the whole information regarding its money and to explain what’s hiding behind those complex economic fights. This month we arrived in Kfar Saba and Hertzlia and intend to continue until we cover the whole country.

More from the Movement’s desk for this month 

We urgently demanded from the Ministry of Justice to have the Recruitment Law’s memo presented to the Public’s reading for a proper length of time. The memo was presented for only six days – legislating in a snatch is unacceptable. * Minister Lieberman has been trying to establish an “economic cabinet” comprising persons some of whom self-interested. We demanded from the Minister to provide a proper explanation for this issue. * Following publications concerning the participation of a self-interested travel agent in the discussion about Uman outline, we contacted the Prime Minister, the Minister of Religious Services, the Attorney General and the Civil Service Commission about the incredibly overt conflict of interest issue. * We initiated a Hackathon within which over 100 students from law schools across the country participated in writing detailed legal position-papers concerning issues that are on the Movement for Quality Government’s agenda. * We required the Ministry of Finance to reveal information concerning money spent within the frame of the continuing budget: “Did the Commission of Exceptions indeed guarded the budget or was it just used as a rubber stamp?” * Following the approval of Gil Limon’s appointment as Deputy Attorney General, we demanded from the Attorney General, the Government’s Secretary, and the ministers, to clarify KM Aryeh Deri’s recommendation and the extent of his interfering in this appointment. This demand follows a suspicion of Deri’s conflict of interest due to his status as a criminal suspect, whose case is about to be decided by the Attorney General. * We protested against Eli Avidar’s resignation from the Knesset – according to the “Norwegian Law” – in order to be appointed Minister without Portfolio. Serving as a Knesset Member is a vocation; being a minister without portfolio is a shame. * An important achievement in the fight against corruption: In a precedent judgment, the Supreme Court determined that bribe criminals must return to the State the money they received unlawfully. Our demand of so many years has been reinforced by the Supreme Court in a precedent, first of its kind decision: civil servants convicted with bribery are unequivocally denied the possibility of enjoying the money they took by crime – they must return it to the State.