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Don't Give Israeli Politicians More Public Funds for Their Election Campaigns

Haaretz Editorial
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A man rides his bike in front of a billboard in Tel Aviv showing Benjamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid as part of the Likud's 2021 election campaign.
A man rides his bike in front of a billboard in Tel Aviv showing Benjamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid as part of the Likud's 2021 election campaign.Credit: Moti Milrod
Haaretz Editorial

Israel is heading for a fifth election, and moments before the Knesset dissolves, Likud seized the opportunity to extort the governing coalition into agreeing to an increase in state funding for parties’ campaigns. Horrifyingly, the coalition was willing to compromise with Likud on this issue, at least as of Tuesday.

Only following criticism from the chairwoman of the public committee on party funding, Judge Ayala Procaccia, coupled with pressure from Labor and Yisrael Beiteinu, was a decision made to keep the vote on dissolving the Knesset separate from the irresponsible legislation to increase party funding. Now Procaccia will be the one to decide whether the parties should get more money.

Likud complains that the multiple election campaigns have made it hard for the party to make do with the public funds already given to it by law. It has incurred debts because of these endless elections, and now it wants the public to cover its deficit. This is the height of absurdity. Not only has the country suffered from governmental instability and been forced to finance one election after another, but now the taxpayers are being forced to pay even more for this because the parties aren’t staying within the budgets they were given.

The “compromise” the parties agreed on, and which the committee will now consider, is that the state funding per Knesset member will rise from 1.4 million shekels ($410,000) to 1.66 million ($480,000). You read that and you can’t believe your eyes. Israel is heading into a fifth election in three years, yet the MKs aren’t ashamed to increase their campaign funding, at an estimated cost of some 30 million shekels to the public purse.

All this is happening while these same MKs are holding up legislation on the Tel Aviv subway, one of the largest and most important infrastructure projects in Israel’s history, even though the country’s future is being threatened by its rapid demographic growth and overcrowded roads. As far as they’re concerned, let the public continue being stuck in traffic jams. What’s important is that Israelis hear the same spin, incitement and empty promises by those who pretend to represent them over and over again.

The last thing the public needs right now is another election campaign. After four heated campaigns so close together, the public knows by heart the talking points, slogans, jingles, dramatis personae and the goods each party is selling. As it heads into its fifth election in so short a time, the public isn’t lacking any of the information it needs to form an opinion. From this standpoint, the election could be held tomorrow morning. If the parties truly want to save money, they should dispense with the campaign entirely.

Judge Procaccia is slated to submit her decision sometime on Wednesday. We can only hope she’ll decide that the existing funding is sufficient and there are no grounds for giving our politicians even more public money.

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

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