(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yesh Atid sprang into action to take advantage of a new law allowing MKs to give up on their pay raises Tuesday, the day after it passed.
On January 1, MKs are supposed to get an increase of about NIS 1,000 to their pay, which is linked to the average salary in the economy.
An unusually large jump was approved for 2016, because the average salary rose an extra 0.8 percent as a result of an increase in the minimum wage in early 2015.
Several MKs complained that the pay increase was not justified, but the Knesset House Committee voted not to cancel it and reject a proposal by the public committee that determines MKs’ pay that the salaries be linked to the consumer index rather than average salary, which would have made the raise smaller.
As a compromise – and some say, as a challenge to opposition MKs – House Committee chairman David Bitan (Likud) proposed the bill to allow MKs to voluntarily give up their pay increase and it became law Monday night despite opposition protestations that it is populist.
If a lawmaker does not take the raise at the beginning of the year, he or she may not change his mind until the following year.
Yesh Atid on Tuesday submitted signatures from all of its MKs forfeiting their raises.
MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) was one of the active opponents of the wage increase. Before lawmakers had the option of forfeiting the increase, the party’s MKs had said they would donate the extra money to charity.
“The raise is not moral, because we believe this money belongs to the citizens of Israel,” Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said. “It is intolerable and scandalous that people [in Israel] cannot finish the month, but MKs are receiving a pay raise.”
Yesh Atid called for the Knesset to take decisions about MKs’ pay out of lawmakers’ hands.
“The raise must be totally stopped once and for all, and not voluntarily,” a party spokesman said.
Two Yesh Atid MKs are unlikely to be hurt much by forfeiting the extra pay.
According to Forbes Israel, Lapid is the seventh-wealthiest politician in Israel, with an estimated worth of NIS 22 million and MK Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) is the ninth-wealthiest, with an estimated worth of NIS 18m.
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union), another vocal opponent of the pay increase, said she would forfeit her raise, as did opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) who decided to forgo the pay increase after discussing it with his wife Michal.
“I said in the past and I think now, as well, that the raise and its timing are wrong,” said Herzog.
According to Forbes Israel, Herzog is the eleventh-most wealthy politician in Israel, with an estimated worth of NIS 10m.
Meretz MKs decided not to give up the raise, but rather to donate it to organizations that promote equality, coexistence, environmental protection, accessibility and community life.
“MKs’ salaries are high enough,” Meretz faction chairman Ilan Gilon said. “Since the choice was between accepting the money or giving it back to the state, we, as a faction, decided to take collective action and set aside the additional sum for the good of civil society organizations, to promote and strengthen extra-parliamentary activities to promote social justice and equality in Israel.”