The Knesset is in an uproar. Not only did the members' salaries not rise this year - but they may even dip downward. The average wage, to which MKs' salaries are tied, is expected to fall.
In 2000, inflated salaries in the high-tech sector dragged the legislators' salaries up 10.2 percent even though inflation was zero. Now it's different. The crisis in the high-tech sector might push wages down, including those of MKs. It's inconceivable!
Last year when MKs were seriously rebuked for their salary rises, then-Finance Minister Avraham Shochat proposed that their wages be linked to the consumer price index instead rather than to average wages. Chair of the Knesset House Committee at the time, Yossi Katz, objected - he said MKs might be accused of an unethical ploy in switching systems at their convenience. Katz suggested instead that salaries be linked to those of physicians, teachers and government corporations.
Well, if Shochat's stunt was unethical, Katz's was outright dirty, because these are the strongest sectors where salaries always go up more than the average wage. Besides, what would happen when these professions went on strike for wage increases? What would the MKs say then with their own salaries linked to that of the strikers?
This week it transpired that the big parties owe a lot of money to the banks because they spent outrageous amounts on their election campaigns. Labor owes NIS 65 million, Likud NIS 40 million, the National Religious Party NIS 15 million, the Center Party NIS 12 million, and so on and so forth.
So party leaders got together and decided to submit a bill to reschedule the debt. Surprisingly enough, it never occurred to them to draft a bill to reschedule the debt of the United Steel Mills in Acre, or one to provide employment for the workers of Delta in Hurfeish when the plant closed down, or a bill to resolve unemployment.
Oh, no. The MKs only join forces to save the most irresponsible organizations in Israel - the political parties. According to the bill, the parties' debt will be rescheduled over a 12-year period, and every year the parties will repay the banks up to a ceiling of 20 percent of the state support that they get to cover their routine activities.
Naturally, this will not be enough, so the bill further provides the banks with a state guarantee to secure the debt. What the bill doesn't say is that the MKs' secret plan is to one day pass a law that the state - not the parties - will repay the banks.
This is hard-core corruption. It means parties can spend whatever they like on election campaigns - which makes being the biggest spendthrift possible a prerequisite for the job of party treasurer. Also, it creates an unhealthy dependence between MKs and the banks, which could well explain the way the Knesset has voted on issues relating to the banking sector. With such mechanisms to determine their salaries and party budgets, the public should be getting extremely weary of its parliament.
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