The ongoing battle for the Ethics Committee: What’s Netanyahu’s trial got to do with it?

After five months and despite an opposition boycott, the speaker of the Knesset has announced the establishment of the Knesset’s Ethics Committee and sent letters to MKs Gila Gamliel (Likud) and Yaakov Margi (Shas). They, however, continue to drag their feet. Could that be because, as long as the Ethics Committee doesn’t convene, Benjamin Netanyahu is free to continue raising as much money as he wants to fund his legal defense?

After five months and despite an opposition boycott, the speaker of the Knesset has announced the establishment of the Knesset’s Ethics Committee and sent letters to MKs Gila Gamliel (Likud) and Yaakov Margi (Shas). They, however, continue to drag their feet. Could that be because, as long as the Ethics Committee doesn’t convene, Benjamin Netanyahu is free to continue raising as much money as he wants to fund his legal defense?

After five months and despite an opposition boycott, the speaker of the Knesset has announced the establishment of the Knesset’s Ethics Committee and sent letters to MKs Gila Gamliel (Likud) and Yaakov Margi (Shas). They, however, continue to drag their feet. Could that be because, as long as the Ethics Committee doesn’t convene, Benjamin Netanyahu is free to continue raising as much money as he wants to fund his legal defense?

Chen Shalita

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy and MK Benjamin Netanyahu. Photos: Noam Moshkovitz - The Knesset, Reuters

November 18, 2021

Summary

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy announced last week that he was convening the Knesset’s Ethics Committee. Even though it has been five months since the new government was sworn in, the Ethics Committee has not convened because of a boycott by members of the opposition parties. This is not the only committee that the opposition is boycotting, but it does have a special standing. It discusses the ethical behavior of Knesset members and its members are appointed by the speaker, not by a panel of lawmakers.

In a statement to the media following his announcement, Levy said, “now that the budget has passed, I once again asked the heads of the opposition parties – in writing and in face-to-face meetings in my office – to name their representatives on the Ethics Committee. Unfortunately, they stubbornly and inexplicably refused, leaving me with no other choice.”

Levy sent appointment letters to two representatives of the coalition (Yorai Lahav-Hertzanu from Yesh Atid, who will serve as chair, and Zvi Hauser from New Hope), and to two opposition MKs (Gila Gamliel from Likud and Shas’ Yaakov Margi). Likud officials have asked Gamliel to resign from the committee, while Margi has already rejected the appointment.

“We have reason to believe that the Ethics Committee will be misused – just like the Knesset protocol is being misused – and I want no part of that,” Margi explained in a conversation with Shomrim. In response to a question from Shomrim, asking whether she intends to join the committee or acquiesce to the Likud demands, Gamliel said, “We’re looking for a compromise.” Pressed for more details, the lawmaker did not respond.

The campaign against cooperation with the committee is being spearheaded by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. Anyone wondering why it is continuing to do so, even after the state budget has been passed, could find an answer in the ongoing corruption trial of Netanyahu himself.

As Shomrim published in September, Netanyahu, as leader of the opposition, is not subject to the rules of the Asher Committee, which obligates a Knesset member to seek special permission to raise funds for legal expenses. However, as a rank-and-file member of parliament, Netanyahu is obligated by the so-called Gift law and to decisions by the Knesset’s Ethics Committee. If the Ethics Committee isn’t established, does this mean that Netanyahu can raise as much money as he wants? After all, it’s not his fault that there’s no one to ask for permission. Or perhaps it means that he cannot raise funds at all. The Knesset spokesman, Shmulik Dahan, declined to respond to those questions in a conversation with Shomrim, claiming that he does not discuss hypothetical situations. But this is anything but hypothetical: Netanyahu’s trial is underway and the former prime minister, as his previous interactions with the committee prove, is never keen to dip into his own pockets to fund his legal costs.

This is a summary of shomrim's story published in Hebrew.
To read the full story click here.