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Former finance minister Avraham Hirchson was fined NIS 7,837 yesterday by the Knesset Ethics Committee, for missing 12 sessions more than is permissible during the Knesset's summer season. The fine will be deducted from his gross monthly salary as a Knesset member, which is NIS 32,655.

The Knesset Ethics Committee consists of Haim Oron, Reuven Rivlin, Yakov Margi and Amira Dotan.

Hirchson explained his frequent absences as a necessity born of being under criminal investigation during the House's summer season. Because of the allegations, he had suspended himself as minister of finance and scaled back his political and public activity, Hirchson said. He also argued that since he had been a cabinet minister, he had difficulty pursuing his duties as a regular Knesset member as well. The law doesn't address the Knesset duties of a former minister who suspended himself, he added.

The Ethics panel was unpersuaded, ruling that the evidence he presented did not justify his absences. It also rejected Hirchson's attempt to piggyback on its decision regarding Haim Ramon, who had not been fined despite missing Knesset sessions throughout six months because he had been on trial for sexual misconduct. The Ethics Committee pointed out that Ramon had strived to expedite his trial, waived the right to a preliminary hearing, and even asked that the court convene every day to speed up the trial. But the investigation into Hirchson's case has lasted a long time, and will continue for the foreseeable future.

Knesset members may miss a third of the House meetings in a given season, at most, because of activity outside the Knesset, said the panel. Deputy ministers may miss a maximum of two-fifths of the sessions, and ministers may miss half.

The minister of National Infrastructures, Binyamin "Fuad" Ben-Eliezer, won a rebuke from the committee for missing too many sessions, although he argued that he had been busy contending in Labor Party primaries, had traveled abroad with the cabinet's blessing, and had prior commitments.