The Movement for Quality Government petitioned the High Court of Justice to order the prosecution to open a criminal probe of Idit Silman, for her alleged plan to switch from the Yamina party to the Likud party.
According to Monday’s petition, Israeli law requires MKs to receive promises or deals to switch parties only less than 90 days after a new election has been declared. The purpose is to avoid opposition parties being able to topple governments by promising a small number of MKs within a ruling coalition that they will receive a spot in the opposition party list in the next election, including a fancy post should that party take power.
Following “the dirty trick” or “stinking maneuver” of 1990, in which a small number of MKs played games with the idea of jumping back and forth between political parties, Shimon Peres lost power to Yitzhak Shamir.
The instability and corrupt atmosphere surrounding the dealings with the MKs who were “in play” led to passing the current law that bans making deals to jump parties before an election has been announced.
The NGO said that it had asked the prosecution to investigate Silman when she left the coalition in April, amid reports that Likud had convinced her to leave based on promises that it would save a spot for her if her leaving toppled the government.
Since then, Likud MKs Yoav Galant and Miki Zohar have given public interviews saying that Silman was promised a Knesset spot and a cushy post with the Likud.
The Movement said that such a promise before the election was announced in July violated the law, and that it was turning to the court because the prosecution has not responded.
Despite the petition, the non-response from the prosecution is likely not an accident.
Even as there is a law on the books prohibiting wheeling and dealing MKs before an election is announced, it could be difficult to prove that there is an enforceable deal between Silman and the Likud applying the high standard of proof in criminal trials.
Rather, both sides could admit they had contacts and exchanged ideas, but that formally there was no enforceable promise.
In that case, even if Silman was given a spot on the Likud list and a cushy job there still might not be a criminal claim, because the sides could say it was a voluntary move and not finalized before the election announcement.
The chance of the High Court intervening absent a smoking gun in a highly formal document, which likely does not exist, are very low.
In addition, the court shies away from interfering in political processes in general.