A law that would allow the appointed interim Tiberias mayor to run in the October municipal elections despite country-wide restrictions on caretaker local authorities is a personal piece of legislation that changes the rules of the election as it is proceeding, NGOs and another mayoral candidate argued in petitions to the High Court of Justice on Wednesday.
The petitions called for an interim order against the law, until an urgent hearing could be held on the law. The High Court ordered the respondents to reply by July 19.
The Tiberias Law that passed late Tuesday night despite opposition filibustering would apply only to the namesake city and would allow appointed caretaker mayor Boaz Yosef, an ally of Shas chairman Arye Deri, to run for office.
The legislation supersedes laws that prevent non-elected mayors, who are appointed by the government, to run in the election.
Yosef was appointed by the Interior Ministry after former mayor Ron Koby was forced out of the position in 2020 after failing to pass his municipal budget. Koby is running for reelection, but angered religious Sephardic residents with his secular political agenda.
The Anti-Corruption Movement's concerns about the legislation
The Anti-Corruption Movement (TLM) and the Israeli Movement filed a petition Wednesday morning alongside mayoral candidate Shani Illuz, who had also claimed that she had been offered jobs in exchange for dropping out of the race -- a possible criminal offense that could be investigated. Another petition was filed by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel (MQG).
In the first petition, it was argued that the current arrangement, preventing caretaker appointees from running for office, is designed to prevent unfair advantages for unelected officials in the race. These officials enjoy the appearance of legitimate authority that they otherwise would not have. TLM said that appointed officials are supposed to be apolitical, acting as professionals to rehabilitate the city. Advantaging Interior Ministry appointees would decrease the autonomy and power of local governments, the petitioners argued, and create incentive for politicians to insert into elections operatives working on their behalf.
The NGOs said that rather than applying broadly, the legislation was extremely personal. It only applied to Tiberias, and was obviously intended to benefit only Yosef. MQG said that this hadn't been hidden in committee discussion, and that the legislation had been passed hastily in time for the upcoming elections.
"It is unfortunate that we had to go to the High Court after yet another personnel law of the current coalition," said TLM director Omer Makayes.
The NGOs argued that the Tiberias Law "changed the rules of the game while playing," that is, the law alters the election rules as the candidates were campaigning rather than after the election.
"The heavy stench of public corruption and the violation of any public norm hovers over the amendment to this law," "The Knesset voted tonight [Tuesday] in favor of corruption, and against a proper administrator, and this is clear to anyone with eyes in their head."
"A heavy stench of corruption and the violation of norms in public life hovers over this amendment to the law,” said MQG legal head Tomer Naor. “The Knesset voted tonight in favor of corruption and against good governance, and this is clear to anyone with eyes in their head.”