Israeli Officials Receive Reminder: Accepting Gifts and Other Benefits May Be a Criminal Offense

Civil Service Commission's Assaf Rosenberg sends memo against backdrop of police investigation against Netanyahu on suspicion of receiving illicit gifts.

The Civil Service Commission's Assaf Rosenberg.
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The Civil Service Commission reminded senior government officials on Monday of the rules forbidding public officials of accepting gifts and other benefits, saying it could be considered a criminal offense.  

Assaf Rosenberg, the person in charge of disciplinary matters in the Civil Service Commission and an attorney, sent the message clarifying the matter to all director generals and deputy director generals in government ministries in light of the investigations being conducted against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on suspicions of accepting such gifts and other benefits from private businessmen. He asked them to pass his message on to all their employees.

Rosenberg sent an email to all government ministries on the matter on Monday, and attached two documents: A circular from the Civil Service Commission from February 2014 on public officials accepting gifts, "including for celebrations and family events," and a second document from March 2013, which was a refresher memo concerning accepting gifts based on the civil service law from 1979.

Rosenberg said he decided to clarify the rules after receiving requests to do so from a number of people in recent days. "Public officials are forbidden to accept gifts, except according to the conditions set in law and the civil service regulations," he wrote.

"All employees must pay attention that in cases in which they receive a gift of benefit with a monetary value that is not customary in those circumstances, with an emphasis on those they have a working relationship with or are those who need their services, they may possibly be answerable on the criminal and/or disciplinary level," wrote Rosenberg. "I am requesting that you pass on this information presented to you to all employees."

Rosenberg has received a letter summoning him to a hearing before being fired from Civil Service Commissioner Moshe Dayan, it was reported a few days ago. The letter states the Civil Service Commission wants to end his employment after 11 years in the job because of professional failures and a personal matter he was involved in, which senior Civil Service officials have known about for months.

The attempt to remove Rosenberg did not stem from the incident, but from a number of the steps he has taken in his job, mainly his attempts to prevent political appointments, said sources in the Civil Service Commission. Among these appointments Rosenberg has tried to block are some related to Netanyahu, they said.   

A week ago, Rosenberg expressed his objections to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit concerning the promotion of Rivka Faluch as the Prime Minister's advisor on legislative affairs and the Knesset, said the sources. He was told no reason existed to forbid the appointment, a position the Justice Ministry now supports too.  

Faluch was promoted to the job that was previously filled by Perach Lerner, who left the position after the police opened an investigation against her on suspicions of graft and breach of trust. 

This is the second time Rosenberg has objected to Faluch's appointment, after asking Mendelblit about six months ago to prevent her appointment to a less senior position of the Prime Minister's advisor on Haredi, social and community affairs. Rosenberg objected to the appointment because of the court ruling in the case of former Justice Minister Haim Ramon, who was convicted of sexual harassment for kissing a female soldier against her will. Faluch testified on behalf of Ramon's defense, and the judges stated in their ruling on the case in 2007 that Faluch, and other witnesses, were "unreliable and untrustworthy, and coordinated their versions at the direction of Faluch on the eve of their giving testimony in court."