Coca-Cola Lobbyist Exposed in Knesset Hearing

Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Kushnir, Head of the Knesset Finance committee. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A paid lobbyist for Coca-Cola was caught in a conflict of interest during a Knesset hearing on a proposed tax on sugary drinks, The Times of Israel reported on Tuesday.

Prof. Ardon Rubinstein, a former head of the Israel Diabetes Association, appeared before the Knesset Finance Committee to argue against a tax on diet soft drinks.

Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Kushnir asked him: “Do you have any business connection to companies that manufacture sugary drinks?”

Rubinstein responded that he does not, but when pressed by other MKs on the committee, he admitted that he was to be paid for his appearance by Coca-Cola.

In a statement to the Calcalist news site, Rubinstein later said that he did not hear Kushnir’s questions correctly since he is “hard of hearing and a wounded IDF veteran.”

The doctor told the panel that he is opposed to levying a tax on diet sodas, which he believes would harm those with diabetes or who are overweight.

“I would work to advance this goal even without payment,” Rubinstein told Calcalist, claiming that he was only being paid a minimal amount by Coca-Cola for his efforts.

The committee reached no decision about the tax, and will continue hearings.

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