October 2017

October 2017 | Quality Report Headlines

MQG Activities Summary – October 2017

A Call for the Establishment of a Government Commission to Investigate the Ruth David Affair –    MQG calls on the Minister of Justice to establish a government commission to carry out an in-depth investigation of the way in which the law-enforcement agency headed by Tel Aviv District Attorney Ruth David executed its mission.  For the past several years MQG has been working to bring about a thorough examination of the various affairs of suspected corruption involving Ruth David, and, if necessary, bring her to justice.  It is suspected that during her term of office as Tel Aviv District Attorney, Ms. David intervened illegitimately in criminal proceedings conducted in her district, and prevented the completion of investigations that appeared destined to end up in court.  Among other factors, it is alleged that she was driven by her closeness to attorneys Ron-el Fisher and Lior Biton.  According to suspicions, David perverted and damaged efforts at law enforcement. Despite all these charges, it appears that the legal system is behaving in a strange and far from diligent manner with regard to the case against Ruth David.

In June of 2016 the Government Attorney General announced his decision to close the investigation against David regarding charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust during the period she served as Tel Aviv District Attorney. It would seem that the decision of the Attorney General is discordant with the facts of the case, such that, in the opinion of MQG, an external, independent probe needs to be carried out into the conduct of the public prosecution during David’s tenure, as well as into the investigations themselves that have been so far carried out into that conduct.  Our position is based on a number of cases, including the case of Etti Alon and the Dadosh Brothers; the investigation of Yitzhak Rochberger; the probe of the suspicions against senior officials of the Me’uheded Health Fund; the case of Yossi Wasserman; the affair of the Tax Authority and Shuki Mashol.  Considering these cases it is not clear what the factual or legal base was for the Attorney General’s decision, and the suspicion arises that the implications of these cases with regard to the conduct of Ruth David were not examined sufficiently, or were not examined at all.

MQG Filed a Court Petition Against the Finance Ministry’s Repeated Ignoring of Demands for it to Release Information Regarding its Dealings with the Violations by Israel Chemicals Ltd. –   In its petition MQG demands that the court require the Finance Ministry to provide MQG with the minutes of the deliberations of the Ministry regarding the report written by Ministry officials concerning violations of the stipulations of the Government’s “Golden Share” in Israel Chemicals Ltd.  (The “Golden Share” was a feature of the privatization of Israel Chemicals Ltd.  in 1992 whereby certain ownership conditions and rights were guaranteed to the Israel Government [i.e., the public] after privatization.  For a long time the Finance Ministry has been ignoring the petition of MQG under the Law for Freedom of Information.  This disregard for MQG’s request for information (even while a legal proceeding on the same matter is pending) joins other cases in which the Ministry is ignoring requests for information.  The Finance Ministry’s behavior raises suspicions that it is systematically employing a totally unacceptable policy intended to avoid having to reveal information “uncomfortable” for the Ministry or facts that would cast the Ministry in a bad light. Such conduct is entirely unbefitting a public authority.

We Demand Disclosure:  Which “Ottoman Societies” are Receiving Tax Exemptions? –  It is well-known that in Israel there are a significant number of “Ottoman Societies” which function according to a law enacted during Ottoman times.  This law excepts such entities from the basic norms of proper administration such as transparency, public disclosure, etc…  Among these societies are many powerful and key organizations such as the Histadrut (national labor union), the Teachers’ Union, The Clalit Health Fund, etc…  According to the most recent report of the State Comptroller it turns out that a number of Ottoman Societies are also recognized as “public institutions”, and are thereby entitled to tax exemptions.  Therefore, MQG has sought, under the Law for Freedom of Information, to discover the identity of these Ottoman Societies, to clarify which regulation authorized the granting of tax exemptions, and to obtain all the relevant documents and minutes relating to the deliberations which enabled the granting of benefits.

MQG Petitioned the Court to Force Disclosure of Information Regarding Expenditures to Renovate and Maintain the Home of the Prime Minister –

The expenditures by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his office have been in the center of public discussion for several years.  Figures are published periodically relating to the use of public funds by the Prime Minister’s office, giving rise to allegations of wastefulness and excessive costs. In consideration of the public interest regarding this matter, media reports appeared in May of this year stating that the Prime Minister’s office spent 350,000 NIS on renovations and structural repairs to the Prime Minister’s official residence on the occasion of the visit of the President of the United States.  According to the reports, the renovations were extensive and included the purchase of chairs, the re-upholstering of armchairs, redecoration of the Press Room, gardening, and improvements in communications.  Moreover, in a film-clip released by the Prime Minister’s Office documenting President Trump’s visit, the Prime Minister and his wife are seen telling Mr. Trump that in honor of his visit a special budget was created to renovate the residence and paint the walls.  In light of the above, MQG turned to the Prime Minister’s Office beginning in the month of June of this year, requesting according to the Law of Freedom of Information that the Movement be provided with documents that specify all the expenditures for renovation and maintenance of the Prime Minister’s residence for the period beginning in the month of June of 2016.  Despite the passing of over 4 months, no response whatsoever has been received from the Office of the Prime Minister.  The phenomenon of a top public authority such as the Prime Minister’s Office ignoring its administrative obligations, ignoring the clear-cut requirements of the law, and ignoring repeated appeals by a petitioner— is unconscionable and represents a severe threat to the rule of law, to the principles of proper administration, to the public’s faith in government and its obligation to act in a responsible manner.

Another Case of Muzzling?  MQG Petitions to be Allowed to Participate in the Matter of the Suit Against Journalist Vered Felman—as a Friend of the Court –

MQG made a request to the court to be allowed to participate in the legal process in the matter of the suit that has been instigated against the journalist Vered Felman. The Movement’s request is motivated by its desire to support the journalist and to represent the public’s interest and the case for freedom of expression.  As we stated in our request, “The suit [against Felman] is part of a troubling judicial phenomenon, which has been gathering strength in recent years, whereby the judicial system is exploited and becomes a strategic tool to muzzle public critics such as journalists, whistle-blowers, and gate-keepers who fight for democratic values such as transparency, public criticism, and clean administration.  The goal of this abuse of the judicial system is to silence criticism and to have a “chilling effect” upon civic involvement and efforts to raise awareness regarding important public issues.

The Position of MQG on the Proposed Political Party Primaries Law –  MQG forwarded a position paper to the members of the Kenesset Interior and Environmental Affairs Committee designed to resolve the many difficulties that arose from the original proposal.  The proposal seeks to provide solutions for two of the problems that currently beset party primary elections.  The first involves the creation of a distance between elected officials and those who contribute to them in order reduce favoritism and conflict of interest, while the second involves the issue of inequality among the various candidates.  In the opinion of MQG, the proposed law will only serve to reinforce the inequality among candidates in the primaries by providing an advantage to incumbents over newcomers who are not well-known to the public.  The compensatory mechanism proposed by MQG is a three-pronged one which will be imposed uniformly on all primary candidates:  A) A prohibition against receiving campaign contributions in primary elections; B) The establishment of a State Body to collect anonymous donations to “crowd-fund” primary campaigns; C) The enabling of primary candidates to obtain State loans which will become grants if the candidate is elected to the Kenesset.

The Names of the Winners of the of “Knights of Quality Government” Award for 2017 have been Announced –  The public commission headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner has chosen retired Supreme Court Justice Selim Joubran as the winner of the 2017 Knight of Quality Government award in the field of judicial authority. An additional winner of this title is MK Yehudah Glick of the Likud Party for his activity in the legislative authority.  General Dan Harel (Reserves) won the award in the category of military and security.  Amir Levy, former head of the Budgetary Division in the Ministry of Finance won in the category of executive authority. In the category of local government this year’s winner was the Mayor of Be’ersheva, Rubik Danilovich.  The Yediot Achronot journalist Shachar Ginossar won in the category of media, and in the category of comptrolling authority, the winner was Shai Galilee, Comptroller of the Likud Party. In the category of fighter for social justice, the head of the opposition in the Teachers Union, Gila Klein, won the award. In the category of integrity, the winner was the whistle-blower Attorney Ma’ayan Agam, and in the category of lifetime achievement, journalist Dan Margalit was the winner.  These Knights join the distinguished list of Knights of Quality Government from past years.