In Turnabout, Key Israeli Lawmaker to Push Bill Against Lobbyists’ Donations

Coalition chief David Bitan of Likud will now try to gather support for the bill that appears to criticize Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

Likud MK David Bitan, October 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

Coalition Chairman David Bitan plans to revive a bill to ban Knesset members from accepting donations from lobbyists to fund their primary-election campaigns.

The move comes as a surprise; a week ago the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted unanimously not to back the bill.

On Wednesday, Bitan asked the bill’s sponsor, MK Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union), not to bring the bill to a preliminary vote in the Knesset, where it would have been defeated. Instead, Bitan sought to put together a majority in the ministerial committee to give it government backing.

Bitan told Haaretz he now intends to change the decision of the committee, which is chaired by Shaked. “I’m in favor of the law, it’s reasonable,” he said.

Rosenthal said he was pleased with Bitan’s proposal, and if the bill passed it would close the loophole that could allow conflicts of interest and corruption.

Bitan said he believed the ministers voted down the bill because of efforts he has led in recent weeks: The governing coalition has rejected all bills submitted by the opposition to the committee.

Bitan launched this tactic after the opposition canceled its agreement to offset votes of coalition MKs who would be absent from the vote on the Economic Arrangements Law. This forced a number of coalition MKs to cancel planned trips or return to Israel early to take part in the vote.

The accepted practice in the Knesset has been for MKs who travel abroad on government business to arrange in advance that certain opposition MKs will not vote; this offsets the coalition MKs' absence.

Rosenthal submitted his bill after Haaretz reported in September that in 2014, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked pushed a bill that served the interests of the Israel Organization of Consulting Engineers and Architects, whose lobbyist Avraham Poraz later contributed 10,000 shekels ($2,600) to Shaked’s 2015 primary campaign. Both Poraz and Shaked insisted there was no connection between the bill and the donation.