Knesset Rife With Lobbyists, Report Shows

The Knesset building (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

To some, the word “lobbyist” has a negative connotation, but the profession is quite well accepted in the Knesset. Over the past year, there was a 64 percent growth in the number of registered lobbyists who hobnobbed with Knesset members, promoting specific interests. In mid-2015, there were 91 such lobbyists, but by this month, that number had grown to 177, an annual report on the state of Knesset lobbyists released this week said.

A lobbyist’s job is to represent a specific interest, and to argue the merits of that interest before MKs, in order to convince them to support bills that promote those interests. They may represent private businesses, industry organizations or even individuals, and they may also represent more than one interest. In fact, the number of clients that use lobbyists exceeds their number: In February 2017, there were 515 registered interests represented by the 177 registered lobbyists.

Many of the lobbyists are former industry executives or government officials, who have good ties with government members and “know the right people.” One recent new lobbyist, for example, is Dror Strum, former head of the Finance Ministry’s antitrust division, who represents media firm RGE, the majority owner of Channel Ten, which has, in several instances, required government assistance in order to survive.

One company new to the lobbyist scene is Unilever, the British-Dutch corporation that apparently decided it needed representation after recent incidents of contamination of Telma cereals, which the company manufactures. Other organizations with lobbyist representation include the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, the Israel Bitcoin Federation and the Teachers Union,.