Mandelblit to Ministers: No ‘Celebrity Endorsements’ Allowed

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. (Emil Salman/POOL)

In Israel, Knesset members and governments officials are a type of celebrity, but using that celebrity to endorse a commercial product, event, or service is unethical, according to State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit. Under new rules issued by Mandelblit, ministers and deputy ministers will be held liable for doing so. Such endorsements harm the image of “public service,” and make it appear as if the government is endorsing specific groups, events or other interests, according to the rules.

“There is no excuse for a minister’s providing an endorsement for, among other things, commercial ventures, especially when those ventures could harm the image of public service, the government, or other institutions in a manner that would make it appear that preference is being given to a specific interest,” Mandelblit’s order says. The rules are similar to those that have already been instituted for Knesset members, with the exception that such endorsement is permissible only if there is a “public interest” in it, in a manner that will enhance public institutions.

Of greatest concern, according to officials, is not that a Knesset member is going to provide an endorsement for a brand of beer, but that their association with an event will give the impression that it is sponsored by, or favored by, the government. That could include public events sponsored by corporations or political and nonprofit groups. Speaking at the event would be permitted, but not “endorsing” it, under the rules.

Other concerns would involve Israelis being led to believe that an endorsement of an event sponsored by a private organization means that it is being favored in a tender or contract process, Mandelblit’s office added.