Israel's New Knesset Members Rush to Make Their Mark

Yesh Atid submits six bills against public corruption on first day of new Knesset.

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Arye Dery and Yair Lapid at the Knesset, May 14, 2015.
Arye Dery and Yair Lapid at the Knesset, May 14, 2015.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The brand new members of the 20th Knesset were sworn in just on Tuesday, but a number of them are in a hurry to make their mark and have already submitted bills for the new session.

Yesh Atid submitted six proposals on Tuesday against public corruption, the most notable of which would require that a person who has been convicted of a crime of “moral turpitude” could never again serve in the cabinet, Knesset or municipal councils. Another bill proposes that if the prime minister, a minister, deputy minister, Knesset member or mayor invokes their right to remain silent during a criminal investigation, this will be viewed as if they have resigned their public position.

A third bill is meant to define the crime of “breach of trust” specifically. “The lack of specific definition in the law of the crime of breach of trust has left a broad gray area, which has been used more than once as a hand-hold for politicians [and public servants] who have transgressed, [taken refuge] in the lack of criminality of their actions, and ignored the ethical and public issues arising from their acts,” states the bill’s preface. The proposed law defines the crimes and punishment, and puts ethical limits on the daily activities of public servants, wrote the bill’s sponsors.

Another bill would strengthen the standing of internal auditors and legal advisors in government ministries and other public bodies, in order to better protect proper administration and the ability to prevent corruption.

It is far too early to know whether Yesh Atid has a chance of passing these laws in the new Knesset, or if they will go the way of most initiatives proposed by the opposition. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid will have to both convince the Justice Ministry and find partners within the coalition in order to advance these bills.

When asked whether the proposed law to keep those convicted of a crime of moral turpitude out of office was a “personal law” aimed at Shas MK Arye Dery, who is expected to be appointed a minister, Lapid said: “This is not a law against Arye Dery, it is also valid against Ehud Olmert, [Avraham] Hirschson and [Moshe] Katsav, or any other public figure.”

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