Knesset Approves 2%-4% Pay Raise for Israeli Lawmakers

Labor's Shelly Yacimovich describes increase as excessive and 'a disgrace to the Knesset and to Knesset members.'

Emil Salman

Knesset members will get a salary increase in January, adding between 731 shekels ($186) and 1,463 shekels ($373) a month to their gross salaries. The raise was decided by the Knesset House Committee on Tuesday.

Knesset members currently get 40,000 shekels a month. The final amount of the increase will be based on the 2015 increase in the average national wage, to which Knesset members’ salaries are linked.

The decision reflected the proposal by committee chairman David Bitan of Likud, who suggested parliamentarians get a pay raise that is one percentage point less than the increase in the average national wage. Biton said the step would offset the boost experienced by the average national wage when the minimum wage was increased.

That boost is believe to have been some 0.8%. The expectation is that the average wage will have risen by 3% to 5% by year’s end, meaning that the members of the legislature will get a 2% to 4% raise, after the one percentage point deduction.

Eleven committee members from Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, United Torah Judaism and Habayit Hayehudi voted for the proposal, while four Knesset members from the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid voted against. The two members of the Joint Arab List on the committee, party chairman Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi, did not vote.

Prof. Chaim Levy, who heads a public panel that is seeking to deprive Knesset members of the right to set their own compensation levels, expressed frustration at the House Committee’s decision. “The Knesset members are approving what is convenient for them,” he told TheMarker, “and what is not convenient for them, they don’t approve. Ultimately, the House Committee is the exclusive, final authority in setting the Knesset members’ salaries and conditions.”

Two weeks ago, chairman Bitan asked committee members to reconsider their decision in July in which they rejected a proposal to link Knesset members’ pay to the cost-of-living index. Such linkage had been recommended by the public panel. The committee refused to approve the proposal unless the Knesset Finance Committee linked the salaries of the country’s judges and Israel’s president to the index.

MK Shelly Yacimovich.
Olivier Fitoussi

The public panel headed by Prof. Levy later revised its recommendation, proposing instead that Knesset members’ salaries remain unchanged in 2016 and increase the following year by the percentage rise in the COL index. At their meeting Tuesday, the House Committee members declined to accept the recommendation.

Bitan explained his proposal to offset the increase, saying that it would not be ethical for Knesset members to indirectly benefit from the hike in the minimum wage. The Finance Committee, he added, will have the opportunity to consolidate pay structures and link the salaries of judges and the state president to the COL index.

Shelly Yacimovich of the Zionist Union and Yael German of Yesh Atid, who both voted against Bitan’s proposal, were critical of the committee’s decision. “The decision to allow an excessive salary increase to go ahead, with the exception of a pitiful and ridiculous cosmetic change, is a disgrace to the Knesset and to Knesset members,” Yacimovich said. German called the decision a waste of public funds to finance an unnecessary increase and said the salary mechanism had to change to head off further raises.

The House Committee session was particularly stormy, with Likud Knesset member Miki Zohar calling German, whose Yesh Atid party is in the opposition, “an irrelevant Knesset member” after the Ministerial Committee for Legislation declined to support a bill sponsored by her Yesh Atid colleague Jacob Perry. That bill would have given a pay raise to soldiers doing their mandatory service. Zohar later refused to apologize for his comment, but said: “There is no question that the opposition is of important value to democracy, but some of the [opposition members] are not relevant. The opposition is dealing in cheap populism.”