Livni calls for greater government transparency

Livni went on to say that ministers’ schedules should be public, as should records of their votes in all governmental committees.

February 15, 2015 22:19
2 minute read.
Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni

Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni on Sunday called for greater levels of transparency in government, saying it was time for politicians to change the conversation on the matter.

“The information is not meant to be in the government’s hands for its own good. The public must get this information,” she said at a meeting on transparency at the Google campus in Tel Aviv.

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She vowed that if the Zionist Union with which she is running in the upcoming election wins, it will continue a process of opening up she began as justice minister.

While noting that transparency should be limited by matters of privacy and security, she said there were several areas where it could easily be improved. In the contentious debate over the defense budget, she offered, there were many areas more information could be made available.

Livni noted two organizations that run on government funds that lacked enough transparency: the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund and the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division.

“The Settlement Division has become a mechanism for transferring funds to isolated settlements,” she said. KKL-JNF, meanwhile, brings in billions of shekels without oversight on how the money spent.

Last week, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid called for nationalizing KKLJNF altogether.

Livni went on to say that ministers’ schedules should be public, as should records of their votes in all governmental committees.

She also called for a code of ethics for politicians separate from laws covering criminal offenses.

When a question of unethical behavior arises, she said, “the public waits for the criminal sentence, but I believe the standard should be much higher.”

Despite her calls for transparency, however, Livni argued that it was correct to keep the content of her negotiations with the Palestinian Authority under wraps.

“I worry that the moment things are put down before they’re ready will mean that we won’t get to a final deal,” she said. Airing the issues before a deal was near could harden public opinion against compromise.

“The moment you say ‘here I won’t compromise and there I won’t budge,’ you make the public opinion more extreme,” she said in a direct reference to statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on negotiations.

Secrecy helped allow talks to progress even in times that they were officially on hold for political reasons, she said, but lamented that they also had a political downside.

“I’ve been blamed for giving away all sorts of things that I never even got near,” she said.

Speaking at the same event, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said transparency was an important tool for increasing competition.

His food reforms, some of which went into effect in January, required big chains to update their prices online regularly in order to help consumers make informed decisions.

The price of food, he noted, had already started coming down.

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