Knesset advances campaign fundraising limit to avoid US model

Likud splits over anti-Barkat bill meant to limit donations.

Likud MK Nir Barkat addresses a Kohelet Policy Forum event, February 12, 2020. (photo credit: MICHAL FATTAL/KOHELET POLICY FORUM)
Likud MK Nir Barkat addresses a Kohelet Policy Forum event, February 12, 2020.
(photo credit: MICHAL FATTAL/KOHELET POLICY FORUM)

The Knesset plenum voted 64-17 to advance the so-called “anti-Barkat bill,” which would limit an elected official and his family to donations of NIS 100,000 a year for political activity when no elections are taking place.

The bill is seen as an attempt to harm the candidacy of the Knesset’s only billionaire, MK Nir Barkat, who intends to run for Likud leader whenever opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu will not be a candidate. The bill’s sponsor, MK Sharren Haskel, said the advantages billionaire politicians enjoy in the United States made the bill more urgent.

“We see what’s happening in America,” Haskel said.

An identical bill proposed by Likud MK David Amsalem was easily defeated despite passing in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday. Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid appealed the vote in the committee, making the coalition no longer obligated to support it. Lapid cited Amsalem’s “violent discourse” in the appeal.

Six Likud MKs joined Barkat in voting against Amsalem’s version of the bill: including Miki Zohar, who said he opposes all personal legislation regardless of the target. There were 13 Likud MKs who voted in favor, while MK Yoav Kisch abstained on the bill, on which MKs were not obligated by faction discipline.

 MK DAVID AMSALEM addresses the Knesset plenum during a debate last month. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) MK DAVID AMSALEM addresses the Knesset plenum during a debate last month. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Barkat said the heads of the coalition pushed the bill because they fear his support. He vowed to not let them harm unity in the Likud.

Earlier in a stormy debate on a bill related to conversion, Yisrael Beytenu MK Yulia Malinovsky accused haredim (ultra-Orthodox) of ignorance, stupidity and racism. United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush countered by calling Malinovsky a drunkard. Malinovsky then told UTJ MKs to “leave their ghetto.”