December 2014

December 2014 | Quality Report Headlines

For full report (in Hebrew) visit our Hebrew website: http://www.mqg.org.il

The Natural Gas Monopoly – A Huge victory! Following a lengthy and difficult struggle by the Movement, the Antitrust Commissioner decided in December, 2014 to act to dismantle the titanic gas monopoly. The Movement initiated a broad campaign following the granting of the exclusive ownership of the natural gas field “Leviathan” to a partnership of Delek (Yitzhak Teshuva) and Noble Energy. These companies were slated to receive control of approximately 90% of the natural gas reserves of the State of Israel for 30 years—a decision which would have had a profound effect on the whole Israeli economy. The movement approached the Antitrust Commissioner presenting him with detailed position papers running into hundreds of pages. The Movement also approached the Finance Ministry to prevent the hijacking of tax income due the State, and contacted many other decision-makers regarding the subject. The courageous decision of the Antitrust Commissioner is praiseworthy, but the struggle is by no means over. A tremendous effort has been undertaken by the tycoons to apply pressure to reverse the decision.

The Dolphinarium Complex – An important victory! A huge award of 1.3 billion shekels of the public’s money to the billionaire Buchman has been cancelled. This was a scandal that reeked of collaboration between Wealth and Government. After he had been neglecting the Dolphinarium Complex for many years, the billionaire Yosef Buchman, in exchange for vacating the premises, was about to receive—-at the expense of the public—- compensation estimated at 1.3 billion shekels for the neglected real-estate estimated to be worth only 1/30th of said compensation. All this was according to a deal hatched with the Tel Aviv Municipality. The Movement testified extensively before the Tel Aviv Building and Planning Commission, The Israel Lands Authority, and other agencies. In October, 2014 we were successful in preventing a dangerous grab at the time the Regional Building and Planning Commission was about to deal with the matter without allowing the public to voice its objections. After preventing this hijacking, and following objections we presented to the Commission, in December, 2014 the commission ruled against the awarding of the compensation to Buchman. Never the less, the struggle is not over, since the building project itself has been approved. The Movement is continuing to do battle in order to ensure that the public interest is protected.

Petition Against the Appointment of Tsahi Hanegbi as an Assistant Minister, due to his Being a Convicted Criminal – In December the Movement made an urgent appeal to the court after it became known that the Prime Minister was intending to appoint Hanegbi to the position of Assistant Minister of Health. Several months previously the Movement had appealed to the court against the appointment of Hanegbi to the post of Assistant Foreign Minister—an appointment that would have involved the crossing of a dangerous red line, since Hanegbi is a convicted felon.

The Suspension of Assistant Minister Faina Kirschenbaum and Others Involved in the Corruption Scandal – Following the exposure of grave suspicions against public servants—among them Assistant Minister of the Interior Faina Kirschenbaum, former Minister of Tourism Stas Mesejnikov, and many others in local government—we appealed to the Attorney General to suspend those involved from their government positions, in order to ensure the proper conduct of an investigation. Following our appeal, the Attorney General ordered Kirschenbaum to suspend herself from the Ministry of the Interior for 30 days.

The Termination of MK Haim Katz’s Leave-Without-Pay – MK Haim Katz currently serves in dual capacities: Chairman of the Workers Committee of the Israel Aircraft Industry, and Chairman of the Knesset Labor Committee. He has been able to do this because for 21 years he has formally been on leave-without-pay from the Israel Aircraft Industry. This situation is very problematic and may lead to a conflict of interest. (In fact, the State Comptroller in his report has already written that Katz’s conduct is unacceptable, and that he exploited his dual positions to influence the voting of the Israel Aircraft Industry’s workers in the recent Likud primaries.) We appealed to the Director of the Authority of Government Companies to demand that MK Katz end his leave-without-pay. Towards the end of October the Director responded that on the surface he accepted our position, and that he intended to request a discussion with the Israel Aircraft Industry during which he would demand the termination of MK Katz’s leave. In December we contacted the Director of the Authority of Government Companies demanding the minutes of the meeting of the directorate of the Israel Aircraft Industry, during which an extension of MK Katz’s leave-without-pay was approved despite the opposition to it.

The Prevention of Inappropriate Government Actions During the Pre-Election Period – From information that has reached the Movement it appears that in certain government offices there are definite concerns that inappropriate actions may be taken during the pre-election period. The guidelines issued by the Attorney General on this matter are clear: During the current pre-election period important government appointments are forbidden—as are government actions adopted via rushed or shortened proceedings. We appealed to the Public Servants Authority requesting that it immediately use all means at its disposal to prevent such abusive government actions so that any appointments that are made will be in the public interest, and not to the benefit of any individuals or political parties.

The Prevention of the Closing of TV Channel 10 During the Election Period – The Movement appealed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (who is also the Minister of Communications) as well as to the Chairman of the Second TV Authority demanding that they act to prevent the closing of Channel 10 and guarantee its continued broadcasting at least until after the elections. Closing Channel 10 during the current period would be a step that goes completely against the principles of Israeli democracy which require media that are strong, diverse, competitive, and free from intimidating threats of being shut down.

The Salaries of Senior Public Servants – In the public sector as well as within private companies in the public sector, a large number of managers and senior employees earn outrageous salaries which can amount to millions of shekels per year. Such salaries are out of all proportion to the actual achievements of said managers and to the profits of the companies they manage. At our recent national convention we presented a proposal for a new law—that was written with the cooperation of MK Merav Michaeli—which would limit the salaries of senior employees in public companies in order to put a stop to the never-ending abuses in this area.

No Government Coalitions Formed Via Secret Pre-Election Deals – We Demand That All Agreements between Coalition or Opposition Parties be Made Public – Following reports that even before elections ministerial positions are being fixed via political deals behind the back of the public, we have appealed to the heads of political parties (and to the Attorney General) and demanded that they reveal all coalition or opposition agreements to which they have committed themselves. Have you reached agreements among yourselves? Reveal them to the public, so it knows for what it is voting!

The Involvement of the Convicted Former Mayor Shlomi Lahiani in the Current Running of the City of Bat Yam – Investigative reports in the media have exposed the fact that Shlomi Lahiani, the former mayor of Bat-Yam who was suspended following a felony conviction, is still involved in running the affairs of the municipality via his protégé Yossi Bachar, the current mayor. In fact, Lahiani even declared that a vote for Bachar was like a vote for himself. In light of these reports, the Movement appealed to the Attorney General demanding that he act immediately to end all involvement of Lahiani in the running of the city of Bat-Yam.

Our Demand That the Mayor of Ramat-Gan be Suspended in Light of his Arrest and the Ongoing Investigation Against Him – Following the arrest of the mayor of Ramat- Gan, Yisrael Singer, due to grave suspicions of fraud and bribery, the Movement appealed to the Attorney General demanding that he order the suspension of Singer. It is unacceptable under the current circumstances that Singer should continue to serve as mayor. The court has already forbidden Singer from being physically present in City Hall for a period of 15 days. Our position is that physical distancing is not enough, but that Singer must be relieved of all his authority. Beyond the obvious fact that it would be impossible for Singer to perform his mayoral duties properly under the current conditions, it is difficult not to be concerned that he might interfere with the investigation against him.

The National Convention of the Movement for Quality Government – The national convention of the Movement for Quality Government took place in the end of December at Sapir College in Sederot. Attending were many political party representatives including Gila Gamliel, Ayelet Shaked, Tsipi Livni, Yitzhak Herzog, Yair Lapid, Zahava Gal-on, and Moshe Kahlon. Panel discussions were held on a variety of civic, economic, and social issues (the salaries of senior officials; the natural gas monopoly; protests in the modern world; corruption in rabbinic courtyards; lobbying in the Kenesset). In addition, the Knight of Quality Government award was given to whistle-blower Rafi Rotem, social activist Daphne Leaf, MK Zahava Gal-on, and others.

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