(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi will take on the rest of his colleagues in the Likud faction on Monday in a battle against a bill that would provide government funding for candidates in primary elections.
In the current system, parties receive taxpayer funds for national elections. But candidates fund their races in party primaries on their own, taking donations from contributors in Israel and around the world.
The bill, sponsored by Likud MK David Amsalem, would allow funding for primary candidates if three conditions are met: the party has at least 5,000 members; its party list is mostly democratically elected; and the primaries take place in the six-month period before a Knesset election.
The candidates would receive funding for all their campaign expenses but would not be allowed to otherwise raise funds.
The bill would provide funding even for those parties that do not hold primaries – to the tune of NIS 50,000 for every mandate they received in the most recent national election.
Hanegbi told The Jerusalem Post
that the bill was both “chutzpadik,” or arrogant, and unnecessary.
But he voiced pessimism about stopping it due to its wide support in his own faction.
“It is chutzpadik because it takes money from the public to fund the ambitions of candidates in their parties,” Hanegbi said. “The public pays enough for general elections. That funding is necessary because democracy costs money. Individual democracy does not need to be funded by taxpayers, because there is the alternative of contributions.”
Hanegbi said the timing of the legislation was especially galling due to the shortage of funds for key issues like stipends for the handicapped, the education system, security needs and the health basket of medicines.
“The bill is unnecessary,” he said, “because there already is transparency in Israel. All candidates announce all their contributions on the website of the state comptroller, who checks every contribution and how the candidate spends the money.”
Hanegbi noted that the maximum contribution to a Knesset candidate was NIS 10,000, and that no MK would feel beholden to a donor for such a low sum.
“In my decades in politics, in which I’ve raised millions for elections, I don’t remember a single case of a contributor trying to take advantage and pressure politicians,” he said.Amy Spiro and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.