Gilad: We're No Different From Other Lobbyists

Lobbyist group pleads its case one week after Knesset speaker hands down strict rules about meetings between parliamentarians, their aides and lobbyists.

After having its permits to enter the Knesset temporarily revoked last week following an exposé of its methods, lobbying firm Gilad Government Relations & Lobbying is pleading its case before Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin. Among other things, the embarrassed firm claims its methods are no different from those of any other lobbying firm.

Rivlin vowed to void the 13 passes belonging to Gilad after the Channel 2 investigative show Uvda ("Fact" ) broadcast a candid camera tape of the company's lobbyists boasting about their exploits and manipulation of MKs. Before the permits can be irrevocably revoked, Gilad will be entitled to a hearing, after which the committee that approves entry permits will discuss its case. The committee consists of Rivlin himself with MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas ) and MK Jacob Edery (Kadima ). No date has been set for it to meet on the Gilad affair, though.

Tess Scheflan

Last week, following the exposé, Rivlin also handed down strict rules about meetings between parliamentarians, their aides and lobbyists. He also banned lobbyists from large sections of the Knesset building, including their favorite haunt - the cafeteria.

The candid camera footage is from lectures to would-be lobbyists. Right there on tape, the Gilad people brag about influencing legislation to promote business interests. But in its letter to Rivlin, Gilad says its methods are no different than those of any of the other lobbying firms.

On Tuesday, Rivlin agreed to meet briefly with former minister Avraham Poraz, who is also registered as a lobbyist (on a volunteer basis ). Poraz had solicited the meeting to present the position of most of the lobbying firms on Rivlin's new restrictions. Rivlin told Poraz he would only meet with lobbyists representatives after Gilad's hearing was carried out.

Poraz asked for a new committee to set ethical rules governing lobbyists' activities in the Knesset, that could include a ban on any benefits or gifts from lobbyists - or their representatives - to MKs. Lobbyists would only be allowed to provide MKs with information.

Poraz is registered as a volunteer lobbyist and represents a large number of the biggest and most influential lobbying firms. These lobbying firms sent a letter to Rivlin last week asking him "not to take out his fury on all the lobbyists because of one firm."

Poraz met Tuesday evening with representatives of a number of lobbying firms, to formulate proposals on their activities within the Knesset. Representatives of Gilad were not invited.

Rivlin said he met recently with the heads of the factions in Knesset to discuss legislation on regulating lobbyists. Most of the faction heads supported an existing draft of legislation curbing MKs' relations with lobbyists, he said.