Study Finds No Rewards for MKs' Effort

Knesset members have a tendency to think that excellence in legislation helps them advance and guarantees their place in the next Knesset. The bottom line is that MKs have few tools that have as great an influence, or get as much coverage, as legislation.

But here's some bad news: Dissertation research by former MK Anat Maor (Meretz) shows that most MKs who excelled at legislation during the period studied (1992-2003) later found themselves out of the Knesset.

Former legislators who fit into that category include Avraham Poraz (Shinui, 48 laws), Tamar Gozansky (Hadash, 36 laws), Shaul Yahalom (National Religious Party, 19), Yossi Katz (Labor, 23), Naomi Chazan (Meretz, 29) and Maor herself (44).

Mind you, these laws were passed and went into effect, and some of them have changed our lives - these are not populist bills intended primarily to get media attention. These MKs have not received any reward for their efforts.

Not during primaries

Maor, who today lectures on public policy at the Ruppin Academic Center and the Open University, earned her doctorate at Tel Aviv University last year. Academics tend to think that MKs will act to maximize their chances of being reelected.

But Maor's research shows that progressive legislation does not provide a return in electability. And here's another tidbit: Most privately sponsored legislation passes in the middle of the Knesset term, when the MKs are not dealing with party primaries.

No explanation for Yahalom

One would expect that MKs who invest a lot of effort in legislation don't have time for the media, and don't pay much attention to members of their parties' central committees. But neither of those expectations holds true for Yahalom. The NRP legislator was actively involved in every aspect of political and parliamentary activity, but was nonetheless pushed down to an unrealistic spot on the 2006 Knesset list.

"It's very frustrating and painful," Yahalom told Haaretz at the time. "I have no explanation for this failure. Even those who hate me can't give me an explanation. I met with all the central committee members, I made hundreds of phone calls, but apparently all that investment and hard work wasn't enough."

Different kinds of laws

One of the good legislators whose parliamentary record Maor examined - but who nonetheless managed to remain in the Knesset - is Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor), who heads the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee.

"Knesset members who made a difference in legislation are certainly compensated, but that's not the only test," said Pines-Paz. He noted that MKs who initiate many laws sometimes make rather esoteric proposals, but said he has made an effort in the last few years to propose only important bills.

Erdan isn't worried

MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), one of the most prominent legislators of the 17th Knesset, seems like he should be worried by the results of the research. But Erdan sees no similarity between himself and those who lost their seats. He is convinced there are explanations for each individual case. A closer examination would turn up "internal political reasons in their parties or changes in the political map, that the party shrunk or they did not have enough media exposure," he said.

The results of Maor's doctoral research corroborate research conducted by Dr. Tamir Shefer in 2000. Shefer examined the media appearances and parliamentary activity (including bills, parliamentary questions and Knesset presence) of the members of the 14th Knesset (1996-1999). Shefer found that the quantity of a Knesset member's parliamentary activities did not have any effect on the individual's advancement in public life or media exposure.

It's not that parliamentary activity harms the MKs' futures - it's just completely irrelevant. On the other hand, the extent and type of media coverage has a major effect on an MK's chances of reelection, and of becoming a national leader.