Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy: Knesset Channel)
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Knesset faction chairmen worked to further
limit lobbyists through changes to the Knesset’s ethical code on Tuesday,
calling for MKs to be personally responsible for their interactions with
New rules for lobbyists in the Knesset went into effect on
Monday, following an instruction by Rivlin, which limited their activity to the
Knesset’s public cafeterias and committee rooms. Lobbyists are prohibited from
entering the MKs’ cafeteria or offices, the Knesset Research and Information
Center and other areas of the Knesset.
The move came following a negative
report on Channel 2’s Uvda investigative program, in which an employee of Gilad
Lobbying recounted how he manipulated MKs and the Knesset Research and
Information Center to a classroom full of lobbyists-in-training.
called the chairmen of all Knesset factions to a meeting on Tuesday, in which he
emphasized the immediate need to pass changes to the ethical code in a vote by
the Knesset House Committee.
The amendments include forbidding lobbyists
to give any gifts or benefits to MKs, prohibiting parliamentary assistants to
also work as lobbyists and making MKs responsible for the consequences of
Rivlin told the faction chairmen in the meeting
that he spoke to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, opposition leader Tzipi
Livni (Kadima) and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, all of whom supported the
According to the Knesset speaker, the public believes that MKs
are promoting the interests of the wealthy, and that allowing lobbyists’
intervention in Knesset affairs endangers the image of Israeli
Likud faction Chairman Ze’ev Elkin and Israel Beiteinu faction
Chairman Robert Ilatov expressed reservations about the new limitations. Elkin
said that they will encourage “grey” lobbying, and that a “lobbyist without a
tag is 1,000 times more dangerous.”
Conversely, Labor leader Shelly
Yacimovich praised Rivlin, saying that lobbyists give corporations an advantage
in the Knesset.
“The public understands that our connections with
lobbyists are sinful,” she said. “They hate us, and rightfully so. This is
discrimination, and we cannot be a part of it.”
Habayit Hayehudi faction
leader Uri Orbach pointed out that the MKs didn’t just “land from the moon,” and
all knew about the situation presented on Uvda.
According to Orbach,
there is no reason to completely disqualify commercial interests from being
presented in the Knesset. The key, he explained, is to regulate how it is done
and the amount of influence narrow interests have.
MKs Ilan Gilon
(Meretz), Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism), Jamal Zahalke (Balad) and Hana
Sweid (Hadash) expressed support for the changes in the name of their respective
parties. Kadima faction Chairwoman Dalia Itzik and UAL-Ta’al Chairman Taleb
a-Sanaa were not present.
Lobbyist Behira Bardugo is representing her
colleagues following the Uvda report and new restrictions. She explained that it
is too soon to see whether the regulations that are already in effect will have
a real effect on lobbyists’ work.
However, she said, it is unfair to
punish all lobbyists from all companies for “the sins of one person and one
“I understand that the Knesset Speaker’s job is to protect the
Knesset’s dignity, and we relate to his anger following the report,” Bardugo
added. “But just because there are some former MKs in jail, does not mean that
all MKs are corrupt. The same applies to lobbyists.”
She also expressed
outrage at the claim that lobbyists only represent the wealthy, pointing out
that many NGOs representing social causes hire lobbying services, and that one
lobbyist can represent a corporation and a charity at the same
According to Bardugo, most lobbyists are “disgusted by the
arrogance and cynicism” displayed in the Uvda report, calling the Gilad lobbyist
a “retarded idiot” and a “stupid man bragging to his students.”
who says they can manipulate the Knesset Research and Information Center is a
liar. They always bring neutral information and show all sides of a situation
without telling the MKs what to do,” she said.
At the same time, Bardugo
pointed out that “even if [manipulation of MKs and the Knesset Research and
Information Center] is not right, it is not illegal. Nobody bribed
She concluded that since lobbyists wear special name tags and
their identity is clear to MKs, they should not be held responsible for MKs’