New panel to decide MKs’ privileges, pay

Knesset team expected to bypass the independent commission that has determined MKs' working conditions for the past eight years.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
April 15, 2011 03:44
2 minute read.
MK Meir Sheetrit

MK Meir Sheetrit 311 Ariel. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Many people want a raise, but few of them have the power to legislate one – unless, of course, they are members of a team set up on Wednesday by the Knesset’s House Committee to determine what privileges, perks and salaries MKs will receive.

The House Committee met in a special recess session to vote to establish the taskforce, headed by MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima).

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Sheetrit initiated the call for the establishment of the team, which is expected to bypass the independent commission that has determined MKs’ working conditions for the past eight years.

Although it does not have a written mandate, Sheetrit’s team is expected to discuss salaries and pensions, and the possibility of increasing the number of parliamentary aides allotted to lawmakers.

Sheetrit will be joined by a power-broking group of MKs, including coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, Israel Beiteinu faction chairman Robert Ilatov, Shas faction chairman Avraham Michaeli, MK Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor) and MK Einat Wilf (Independence).

Michaeli has already announced that he “would not allow MKs’ salaries to be raised by the committee.”

“MKs are no better than the rest of the nation, but are public servants – and should act accordingly,” Michaeli said.



MKs Eitan Cabel (Labor) and Ilan Gilon (Meretz) strongly opposed the team’s establishment, and Cabel demanded that it at least be given a clear mandate regarding which benefits it would and would not review.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who is on a rare official visit overseas, also opposed the establishment of the panel. He asked that its establishment be postponed until he returned to Israel on Thursday, but to no avail.

Currently, an external commission led by Prof. Reuven Gronau is tasked with reviewing MKs’ working conditions and ruling on salary increases and benefits.

Gronau Commission recommendations are then passed onto the House Committee for approval.

Technically, the House Committee is still authorized to change lawmakers’ work conditions, but the establishment of the Gronau Commission eight years ago was designed to avoid the embarrassing situation in which MKs were authorized to give themselves raises at their own discretion.

Raises to MKs’ salaries were frozen in 2008 in the shadow of the global economic crisis. They get NIS 33,210 a month.

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