In Bid to Fight Lobbyists, Knesset Committees Can Now Remove Guests During Voting

Knesset House Committee approves move, citing need to prevent outside pressure on MKs, but watchdog says move hurts public oversight.

Knesset House Committee mulls proposal to allow removal of guests from committees during voting to fight lobbyists influence. February 1, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Knesset House Committee approved a proposal Tuesday that Knesset panels will be able to remove guests when voting is taking place, in order to prevent external influence on MKs.

The proposal by MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) enables a panel chairman or chairwoman to exercise their authority and remove guests who are not Knesset or government employees or journalists.

The step is designed to block the influence of lobbyists and those with special interests who regularly attend the deliberations of Knesset committees. At the same time, Hasson and Knesset House Committee chairman David Bitan (Likud) are examining the possibility of publicizing the results of the vote, and how each panel member voted, in real time on a TV screen outside the committee room.

The Hamishmar Hahevrati (Social Guard) organization, a social policy watchdog, declared its opposition to the decision and said the public should be able to monitor and criticize MKs.

Olivier Fitoussi

“The way to conduct voting in a practical manner and for the benefit of the public is ... not to exclude them from the decision-making processes,” the civic watchdog said in a statement.

“Conducting the voting in a practical and transparent manner, in which it is clear to the MKs what they are voting on – while listing the names of those voting – will benefit not only the MKs in their committee work, but the public as well, which will receive better legislation.”

Hasson, meanwhile, called the committees “the most important tool in the work of the Knesset. In the plenum, the atmosphere is very sterile and parliamentarian, with a minimum of diversions and disturbances. I am pleased that this is one of the most open and transparent parliaments in the world when it comes to committees, which are frequently broadcast on the Knesset website and are open to reporters and journalists at all times.”

He added that his proposal “will strengthen the heads of the committees so they will have the authority to remove anyone who is not a parliamentary adviser, Knesset or government employee, or journalist during the voting – but not during the discussion, which must be completely open. This is an important achievement for the transparency and propriety of the Knesset’s work.”

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee recently started promoting a pilot in which everyone who attends committee discussions must add his name to the minutes, making it possible to keep track of the presence of various groups during committee debates. Last week, it was decided that journalists will be exempted and won’t have to give their names.

Olivier Fitoussi