MK Oren Hazan.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein appointed MKs to the Knesset Ethics Committee Thursday, over two-and-a-half months after the Knesset was sworn in.
The committee’s chairman is MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), who held the position in the 18th Knesset, and its members are MKs Eyal Ben-Reuven (Zionist Union), Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) and Rachel Azaria (Kulanu). The substitute members are MKs Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and Yoav Kisch (Likud).
The ethics committee holds its meetings behind closed doors, and all ethics complaints are kept confidential until the committee makes a decision on the matter. In order to maintain confidentiality, complaints that are released to the press by MKs who submitted them are disregarded.
The MKs are likely to dive into their work immediately, as opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) reiterated Wednesday that he would submit a complaint against MK Oren Hazan (Likud), who in reports on Channels 2 and 10 was accused of pimping prostitutes and providing drugs to Israeli tourists at a casino he managed in Burgas, Bulgaria, and of sexually harassing and molesting his female employees at a bar he owned in Tel Aviv.
A senior Knesset source expressed doubt last week that the committee would be able to find a loophole giving it the jurisdiction to punish an MK for something he allegedly did before he was elected, like Hazan.
Another recent incident that could make it to the ethics committee is a Knesset Interior Committee meeting in which MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint List) called MK Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beytenu) a fascist and Gal called Zahalka a terrorist. While name-calling is not unusual in the Knesset, it is often the subject of ethics complaints.
“The need for the Knesset Ethics Committee that is being founded today is becoming clearer each day,” Edelstein said.
The Knesset speaker explained that the committee does not deal with criminal cases and does not judge MKs; rather, it handles ethical norms and rules of appropriate behavior for lawmakers.
“I call on MKs to turn to the committee for help with any doubt you may have, but more than that, I expect them to have a personal conscience and attention to details, which turn us from elected officials to faithful emissaries of the public,” Edelstein added.
Azaria said “many eyes are on us MKs and we have a great responsibility to set a personal example and meet the public’s expectations.
“Recent events show how necessary and important the committee is, and I hope that we will know to make the right decisions... even when they are difficult,” she said.
On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation is expected to vote on an ethics-related Yesh Atid bill, which would prohibit anyone convicted of a crime with moral turpitude of running for the Knesset or holding an executive government position, such as prime minister, minister or mayor.
Currently, the law mandates a seven-year waiting period after the person is released from jail before he or she can run for political office.
“Whoever is convicted of a crime with moral turpitude cannot be a minister in the Israeli government, cannot be an MK and cannot be a mayor,” Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said. “In recent years, the public’s trust in the governmental system has been worn out and it is ruining all that is good in public life in Israel.”
MK Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union) proposed a similar bill.