Knesset members stood behind their man on Monday, their man being the chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, Avraham Hirchson. They firmly rejected the Movement for Quality Government in Israel's demand that he resign because of his conflict of interest.
The committee members lauded his leadership, saying he fulfills the task honestly and fairly. The opposition member on the committee, Labor MK Isaac Herzog, told Globes that he "vehemently opposes the besmirching of Hirchson's good name," and the coalition whip, Likud MK Ruhama Avraham, ruled that it was a storm in a teacup.
As chairman of the committee, Hirchson influences pensions, health funds and banks. The Movement for Quality Government's case is that Hirchson is tainted by a conflict of interest because he also chairs the National Workers Histadrut union, which runs the Leumi health fund and the HAL pension fund, and his son is negotiating a debt arrangement with the banks.
Hirchson rejected the movement's petition, noting that the Knesset has passed a law allowing the heads of labor organizations to serve as MKs. That law had been tailored for Amir Peretz, chairman of the Histadrut labor federation. Hirchson even mocked the movement for demanding he resign as chairman of the committee rather than the union.
But none of the MKs, nor Hirchson, addressed the second part of the movement's complaint - his weight on banking matters, which could have material impact on his son's business.
The Amir Peretz law does not cover personal conflicts of interest, and Hirchson's silence on that aspect could attest to the fact that he has nothing convincing to stand on.
In fact, the public conflict of interest is bad enough too, even though the Knesset took the trouble to protect its members by a law that relieves them of responsibility. All signs are that the treasury is walking on eggs when it comes to pushing laws touching on the pension funds and the health funds through the Knesset Finance Committee.
Hirchson, with all the MKs again behind him, is spearheading the battle to relieve the local authorities of their mountainous debts. He has threatened to block the treasury's budget adjustments unless the bill passes, approving money transfers to the local authorities to pay salaries. The money would go into accounts on which liens cannot be slapped.
In public, Hirchson is taking the side of the local authorities and their workers. In practice, what he's doing is squandering taxpayer money on badly-run local authorities that become functionally exempt from cleaning up their act. And in fact, he's rescuing wasteful local authorities from their debts while allowing their suppliers to go bankrupt because they can't have liens placed on the authorities' assets.
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