Court Orders Publication of the List of Permanent Knesset Visitors

Despite objections by the Knesset’s security officer who cited potential security risks, the court determined that publication of the list would greatly contribute to transparency. However, hundreds of names remained under wraps by mutual consent.

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Outside the Knesset building.
Outside the Knesset building.Credit: Daniel Bar-On

The Knesset has just released a list of names of people with permanent entry permits to the building after the Jerusalem District Court instructed it to do so. Following this, the Knesset officer may change security arrangements in the building.

The publication comes in the wake of a petition filed by the Movement for Freedom of Information together with journalist Tomer Avital. Knesset officer Yossi Grif requested that the names be withheld out of concern for the security of the building and of Knesset members, but Judge Nava Ben-Or determined that the public’s right to know overrides security concerns. Following the release of the list of names, Knesset officials said that Grif may change security arrangements and publish new guidelines on the matter within days.

The list contains only 10 percent of people holding permits, following agreements reached with the petitioners. The Movement for Freedom of Information asked for the names of permit-holders that were removed from the list before it was handed over to them. The published list includes guests of Knesset Speaker Edelstein, lobbyists, non-profit organization representatives, journalists covering the Knesset, Knesset Committee guests and employees of the different factions. There are hundreds of other names that were not divulged, in agreement with the petitioners.

Ben-Or criticized the Knesset for trying to conceal the names for security reasons. “Publishing these names will greatly enhance transparency” she determined. “These are people with permanent access and influence on Knesset members. The public has great interest in knowing who they are.”

Looking at the guests of Edelstein shows that at least 30 out of 50 names that were examined were Likud party activists. Most of them are unknown to the public but they have clout in the party, which could help Edelstein advance his standing. He meets them on a weekly basis, continuing with his political activity alongside his role as speaker.

The prime minister’s associates and prominent businessmen are also on the published list. People close to other Likud politicians also appear there. Many people consider these permits a status symbol.

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