Editorial |

Keep Lawmakers Out of Army Headquarters

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
Defense Minister Benny Gantz during his visit to 5th Fleet Headquarters Navy Base in Juffair, Bahrain, earlier this month.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz during his visit to 5th Fleet Headquarters Navy Base in Juffair, Bahrain, earlier this month.Credit: HAMAD I MOHAMMED/REUTERS
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Seven MKs were guests at the Kirya government compound in Tel Aviv Sunday, after they were summoned by Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Their hosts were Gantz’s bureau chief, Maayan Yisraeli, and Brig. Gen. Gil Pinhas, economic adviser to the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff. The lawmakers’ visit was organized by a joint IDF and Defense Ministry campaign, underway for several months, to approve extensive pension benefits for career service members.

These benefits require legislative approval. Gantz is sponsoring a bill that would on the one hand approve these benefits for future IDF retirees with a bridging pension, and on the other hand authorize the benefits – of questionable legality – that IDF retirees with budgetary pensions have received for 60 years. But the bill has encountered political obstacles. MKs from the coalition have felt uncomfortable discussing the matter with coronavirus restrictions still in place. A few of them think it inappropriate to further reward the most highly compensated group in the public sector, at a time when the high cost of living is at the top of the public agenda.

The High Court of Justice has hinted to the government that if the benefits to IDF retirees are not enshrined in law by the end of February, it intends to consider ending the controversial payments to career service members. The defense establishment is therefore working against the clock to obtain a parliamentary majority for the bill, to the point of summoning lawmakers to the Kirya for a persuasive lecture.

The IDF brass and senior Defense Ministry officials have long been acting like a labor union for all intents and purposes, leveraging organizational power to improve their terms of employment, even at the expense of the rest of the country’s workers. But no other trade union in Israel enjoys the direct access that the military has to the political leadership, nor the ability to influence and pressure decision-makers behind the scenes – all without declaring a labor dispute, without the details of the horse trading becoming known to the public at large. The IDF won this access because it is responsible for national security, but now it is exploiting it to gain an advantage in a political struggle to protect what are clearly personal-economic interests of its members.

The problem is that the legislators who came to the Kirya Sunday were not summoned there for an urgent security briefing, but rather in order to influence votes in the Knesset on a personal, sectorial matter. Attorney General Gal Baharav-Miara must make it clear to the Knesset that this activity is prohibited, and warn the Defense Ministry, the defense minister and the IDF against exploiting their position.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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