Knesset ethics code could slap stiff sanctions on violators

Knesset ethics code coul

Despite behind-the-scenes reluctance on the part of some MKs, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin announced Monday that the House Committee would begin to speed up the approval of a new Knesset ethical code. If approved, the new code would slap unprecedented sanctions on MKs who violated its rules of conduct and democratize the ability to file complaints against MKs. In accordance with Rivlin's request, the committee is expected to appoint a subcommittee led by MK Haim Oron (Meretz) to speed up the code's drafting and approval process. Rivlin made a rare appearance before the committee Monday morning to request that it appoint the subcommittee to debate and approve the clauses of the new code, that has yet to receive approval. The draft code was formulated as part of the recommendations of the Zamir Commission, which Rivlin established in 2003 during his previous tenure as Knesset Speaker. The committee's conclusions were submitted three years later. The majority of the Commission's recommendations have already been OK'd, but those that remain include some powder-keg issues. Supporters of the new code accuse MKs on the House Committee, from both the coalition and opposition, of working in recent weeks to delay it, and of successfully derailing attempts to create a temporary committee to address the code's approval. Among the recommendations of the Zamir Commission yet to be approved is the sanctioning of MKs for violating the code. Proposed sanctions include prohibiting their appointment to special Knesset positions such as Knesset speaker, deputy speaker, committee chairman, opposition chairman or member of the Judicial Selection Committee, as well as salary suspensions of up to one month. According to one proposal, MKs would be given an opportunity to apologize for their behavior before the plenum session rather than face sanctions. Another key issue yet to be voted on was the reorganization of methods for submitting complaints against MKs. The proposed system would channel complaints through a special ombudsperson, and the Ethics Committee would be divided into two distinct panels - the complaints committee, which would be comprised of three MKs, and the appeals committee, which would add an additional four MKs. The new code would also enable non-Knesset bodies, such as non-governmental organizations, to submit complaints. "There are modes of conduct which the Knesset cannot countenance," said Rivlin. "We must deal in an appropriate manner with these behaviors, which harm the Knesset's public image, through an Ethics Committee that has the real ability to respond to ethical violations. "I hope that the special subcommittee will quickly advance the approval of the missing chapters of the new ethical code, and will bring the entire code up for approval soon."