Anti-Barkat Campaign Finance Bill Advances in Knesset

Likud MK Nir Barkat, former mayor of Yerushalayim and reputedly the richest member of the Knesset. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The personal wealth of Likud MK Nir Barkat could help finance his ambition to succeed Binyamin Netanyahu in the party leadership, and a bill currently making its way through the Knesset is aimed at stopping him, according to The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by fellow Likud member David Amsalem, has been nicknamed the “Barkat Law,” as it will impose limits on the use of one’s own money to finance a campaign.

That could level the playing field for Barkat’s rivals—such as Yisrael Katz and Yuli Edelstein—who can’t match Barkat’s estimate fortune of 500 million shekels ($139 million).

The bill would limit the sum of donations that a public official and his family can give to a political campaign to NIS 100,000 per year. The ministerial committee, chaired by Justice Minister Gideon Saar, backed the proposal and recommended a coalition committee be established to examine it further.

The legislation, in explanatory text, says that it is aimed at “equality, integrity and preventing the purchase of power with money” and says its goal is to prevent politicians’ reliance on wealth and to curb the impact of money on electoral process.

Barkat said Monday that the legislation reveals how afraid his political opponents are of the prospects of his winning the party chairmanship after Netanyahu.

“They are afraid, afraid,” he said in a video message filmed in the Knesset and shared on social media. “And they know why. A group of wheelers and dealers who joined together to try and stop me.”

Barkat said he was not alarmed by the move, because, “despite what they say, I work for you — for one shekel a year.” The wealthy MK, said to be the richest member of Knesset, declines to take his salary, accepting only one shekel a year.

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