How Ministers Vote on Bills Will Stay Secret for Now, Despite Livni Vow

Justice minister had promised greater transparency, but cabinet has to vote on any change first.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The deliberations of the powerful committee that determines the Israeli government's position on proposed legislation will remain secret despite recent pledges to the contrary by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

Livni announced last Wednesday that as of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation's next meeting, how ministers voted in the body would be made public.

But on Sunday, cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit said changing the procedure required cabinet approval. When the committee met Sunday, Livni said she would seek the requisite support of her fellow ministers.

Since the Ministerial Committee for Legislation is made up of the cabinet ministers and since the governing coalition has a majority in the Knesset, its vote usually determines whether legislation passes or is shelved.

The committee's deliberations have always been entirely confidential, with even minutes of the meetings withheld from public view so that ministers' positions are not subject to pressure. But the lack of transparency has enabled secret political deals that have blocked legislation and allowed interference by special interests.

Livni initially planned to make all the committee's deliberations public, but in the face of opposition, she announced that after consultation with various professionals, she would as a first step have the committee members' votes made public. Even that change has also been deferred, though, following Mandelblit's statement the cabinet as a whole must vote on it.

Mandelblit is now expected to consider the legal aspects of the change and then present his position to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a related development Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation declined to support a bill introduced by Habayit Hayehudi Knesset Member Orit Strock that would require the disclosure of the full minutes of the committee's deliberations, including how the committee members vote. That proposal too will be considered by the full cabinet at a later date.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah).Credit: AP

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