Rivlin Agrees to Reschedule Parties' Debt

Sixteen political parties owe the state a total of NIS 27.8 million, leaving Knesset officials scratching their heads over how to collect. As a first step, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin decided yesterday to give Labor more time - until mid-2012 - to pay the NIS 7.9 million it owes.

All the debts stem from loans the parties took from the state to finance their 2008 municipal election campaigns.

The other 15 parties have yet to even request that their debts be rescheduled. Interior Minister Eli Yishai therefore asked Rivlin recently to start deducting the money from the monthly funding these parties receive from the Knesset.

However, that system will not work for five parties that no longer sit in the Knesset, and which together owe about NIS 14 million: the Pensioners Party (NIS 2.2. million), Meimad (NIS 741,000), Ahi (NIS 1.9 million), Moledet (NIS 4.7 million) and Aliya (NIS 4.6 million). Of those five, three - Meimad, Ahi and Aliya - never actually sat in the Knesset as independent parties; they are factions consisting of one or two MKs who were elected on another party's list.

The other debtor parties are Kadima (NIS 1.8 million, after having already repaid NIS 14.6 million), Likud (NIS 1 million), Yisrael Beiteinu (NIS 847,000), the National Religious Party (NIS 988,000), Tekuma (NIS 621,000), Balad (NIS 429,000), Hadash (NIS 258,000), United Arab List-Ta'al (NIS 50,000) and the Democratic Arab Party (NIS 105,000). Several of these parties were elected to the Knesset as part of joint lists with other parties: Tekuma, for instance, ran on the National Union list, while NRP is part of Habayit Hayehudi.

Labor sought debt rescheduling because of its critical financial situation: Its total debts are thought to amount to some NIS 120 million. The public committee on party financing, after studying Labor's proposed repayment plan, advised the Knesset last weekend to accept it, and yesterday, Rivlin did so.

Currently, Labor receives NIS 910,000 a month in party funding from the Knesset. Under the newly approved plan, NIS 175,000 a month will be deducted from this sum and used for debt repayment through October 2011; the figure will then rise to NIS 300,000 in November 2011 and NIS 450,000 a month from December 2011 through June 2012.

The deal with the Knesset is part of a broader financial recovery plan that also included rescheduling Labor's debts to the banks.