Knesset Speaker to Launch New, More Stringent Ethics Code

Dalia Itzik's move set to empower House's Ethics Committee, often perceived as toothless.

Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik will use a new ethics code to crack down on ethical offenses and empower the Ethics Committee to impose serious fines on guilty MKs.

At present MKs can be barred from parliamentary debates in extreme cases, but Itzik says the committee lacks teeth because it usually makes do with reprimands and is almost totally unable to impose fines.

The Zamir Committee, which has drafted a proposal for a new Knesset ethics code, announced this week that it is boycotting House Committee meetings on the proposal. It is doing so to protest the latter's rejection of the Zamir Committee's recommendation to appoint an ethics adviser to the Knesset.

The Zamir Committee recommended imposing fines of up to a month's wages on offending MKs and barring them from serving in senior Knesset posts.

Itzik, commenting on the Zamir Committee's decision, said she supported imposing large fines on offending MKs but would only support barring MKs from serving as Knesset committee chairmen or deputy speakers in extreme cases.

Itzik said she too objected to appointing an ethics adviser. "It's the MKs job to decide which recommendations to accept. I see no reason to let an outsider handle [Knesset] ethics," she said.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel asked Itzik and House Committee chief MK David Tal to reconsider their decision not to appoint an ethics adviser to the Knesset. The movement, which urged the Zamir Committee to resume the debates on the ethics code, said that without an ethics adviser and enforcement it would not be possible to change MKs' ethical behavior.