Welcome to the Knesset, Beware the Lobbyists

NGO to issue incoming MKs a guidebook so they won't become 'easy prey for inaccurate data and spin tactics.'

Zvi Zrahiya
Zvi Zrahiya
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Zvi Zrahiya
Zvi Zrahiya

Parliamentarians sworn in on February 5 to the 19th Knesset will receive a beginners' guide on everything related to the activity of lobbyists swarming the building's corridors. The handbook will include figures on the number of lobbyists and explain the rules pertaining to them.

"We've decided to distribute the basic guide to Knesset members so they won't become easy prey for inaccurate data and spin tactics used by lobbying firms," explained Shabi Gatenio, head of the nonprofit Association for Progressive Democracy. "Every new member elected to the Knesset will receive a set of updated figures on the activities of Knesset lobbyists."

The Association for Progressive Democracy calls for barring paid lobbyists from entry to Knesset building.

The association recommends Knesset members not rely on material provided by paid lobbyists but rather to always check facts on issues under consideration with the Knesset's Research and Information Center. It also advises they maintain full transparency in their dealings with lobbyists and document any discussions with them.

A bill presented by Knesset members David Azoulay (Shas), Haim Katz (Likud), Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) and Zion Pinyan (Likud) proposed requiring lobbyists to publicly disclose any material they furnish to elected officials in an attempt to sway the legislative process. The Association for Progressive Democracy intends to push for the bill in the upcoming session as a partial solution while it aims for banning the presence of paid lobbyists from committee hearings.

There are now 254 registered lobbyists in the Knesset, 26 percent more than a year ago and nearly four times as many as there were four years ago, according to the association. Among these, 80 work full-time for lobbying firms and 31 are self-employed, while the remaining 143 includes lawyers and others who lobby on a part-time basis. Altogether, 796 different clients are represented by Knesset lobbyists.

Members of the civil marriage lobby at a Knesset committee meeting in 2011.Credit: Emil Salman