A leading Zionist Union Knesset member promoted legislation to benefit a company whose lobbyist donated to his primary campaign.
Eitan Cabel, who chairs the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee, promoted the bill despite the opposition of the Transportation Ministry’s professional staff.
The company in question was represented by former Interior Minister Avraham Poraz, who donated 5,000 shekels ($1,300) to Cabel’s 2015 campaign. On Thursday, Haaretz reported that Poraz also donated 10,000 shekels to the primary campaign of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi). Four months later, she submitted legislation benefiting another of his clients, Israel Organization of Consulting Engineers and Architects.
In the current case, Poraz represented the company for free, but his son works for it.
A bill to regulate Israel’s automotive sector has been in the committee for three years. The 81-page, 253-article draft law addresses every aspect of the industry, from importers to repair garages. Because it will affect tens of billions of shekels worth of business, the bill has earned the ministrations of dozens of lobbyists.
The article affecting Autoluxe, a large tire company, is just one tiny part of the bill, but for the company, it’s a big deal. Autoluxe operates a mobile tire repair and replacement service used mainly by companies with large vehicle fleets. The service enables these companies to avoid constant visits to tire shops, since Autoluxe workers visit their lots and check the tires there.
But the original bill would have banned this service. It permitted “mobile garages” only for emergency repairs, not routine maintenance.
In March 2016, after Cabel became the chairman of the committee, Poraz attended a session to argue that this provision should be changed. Cabel welcomed him enthusiastically at the start of the meeting.
Poraz’s opponents fell into two categories: the garages, which wanted cars to have to come to them for maintenance, and Transportation Ministry staffers.
“We fear that you’re creating an opening here that downright invites pirate garages, that invites a situation in which repairs will begin to be carried out in the yards of homes,” said ministry legal advisor Chava Reuveny. Avner Flor, head of the ministry’s motor vehicles division, added that the ministry had checked the mobile tire service and concluded it wasn’t the same as a garage.
Cabel rejected these arguments, noting that the service is used mainly by companies with their own parking lots. “It’s not as if people will be standing outside their homes to with their cars to have their tires replaced,” he said, adding, “though I’m not sure that’s such a bad idea.”
MKs Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism), Jacob Perry (Yesh Atid) and David Bitan (Likud) also supported the proposal, so in the end, the bill approved in June exempted mobile tire services from the ban.
One week later, the Israel Garage Association asked the committee to reconsider. “In the end, this will hurt safety,” warned association representative Dudi Nasa. He also said the mobile service provided unfair competition to garages, with their greater business expenses.
The committee was not persuaded, and it confirmed the exemption.
Cabel told Haaretz the committee’s decision had nothing to do with Poraz,
“I didn’t make the decision alone. It never entered my head ... I didn’t even know he was their lobbyist.” Cabel added that Poraz’s donation to his campaign was reported to the State Comptroller’s Office.
“The decision we made was the right one,” he concluded, and that’s what “you should be judging me” on.
Poraz told Haaretz that when he contributed to Cabel, he had no idea that Cabel would be appointed chairman of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee.
“I donated to him because I admire him and wanted him to place high” on Zionist Union’s Knesset slate. Moreover, he pointed out, the entire committee supported the change, not just Cabel.
“Does he have to check, with every issue that arises, whether someone who donated to him could benefit from it?” Poraz added. “If I were a Knesset member who had run in a primary and someone who gave me a mere few thousand shekels showed up, would I sway my vote because of that?”
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