Wrangling Continues Over Campaign Funding and Election Date

By Shmuel Smith

The Knesset plenum, hall of the Israeli parliament, in Yerushalayim, Monday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM – A dispute over a last-minute campaign finance measure has threatened to delay disbandment of the Knesset and the calling of elections.

The Likud proposed an increase of 30 million shekels in state funding for the parties in the upcoming election campaign, which was opposed by Labor and Yisrael Beytenu.

In order that the dispute should not hold up passage of the Knesset Dispersal Bill, to which the funding raise was attached, it was sent to the Public Committee on Party Financing — an independent oversight panel—that will evaluate it separately.

Committee chair Ayala Procaccia promised to finish the committee’s assessment by Wednesday at noon, in time for voting on it the same day as the voting on the dissolution of the Knesset.

The Likud party, which has chronically exceeded its campaign budget, wants the increase. In Israel, campaigns are primarily financed by public monies, while private donations are limited.

The proposal also calls for extension of the parties’ loan repayment period from 36 to 52 months.

The bill was submitted late Monday night, less than 48 hours of the expected timeline for the Knesset to disband itself. A number of other bills are also being considered at the same time, before the parliament disbands.

Yisrael Beytenu MK Yevgeny Soba condemned the funding increase as “robbery of public funds in broad daylight.”

“I oppose raising party funding. This progress should be stopped immediately,” said Labor faction chair Ram Shefa at Monday’s House Committee meeting.

Earlier in Tuesday’s House Committee meeting, Procaccia expressed disapproval of the late introduction of the spending proposal.

“What emerges from this legislative proposal is actually an attempt to circumvent the public committee, which the Knesset saw fit to appoint…so that it would ensure that the public interest would not be harmed.

“The Knesset is not respecting a law that it itself enacted, and this process will arouse justified public criticism. I understand the constraints of the parties, but it is possible to wait a few days for the public committee to discuss the issue very quickly on the basis of due process,” she said, according to The Times of Israel.

The date for elections also remained at issue on Tuesday, with the likely date either  October 25 or November 1.

The opposition wants voting to be held on October 25, while yeshiva students are still on vacation after the Chagim, so that they will not have to travel home to vote, taking time from their Torah studies and reducing the turnout.

On Monday, UTJ chairman Rabbi Moshe Gafni said that after consulting with Harav Hagaon Gershon Edelstein that they were fully in favor of the earlier date.

The coalition prefers the later date for the same reason, as well as to give interim prime minister Yair Lapid more time to burnish his image as a national leader.

Labor initially supported the bill, as it too needs money for election expenses. But then it switched sides because Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli’s “Metro Law” was omitted from the legislative package.

The Metro Law is a massive 150 billion shekel ($44 billion) project for 90 miles of underground rail lines going through 24 cities, the biggest such undertaking the state’s history.

Labor MKs accused the opposition of harming the public for political reasons.

Likud MK Yoav Kish offered that his party would withdraw its objections if the coalition will agree to hold the elections on October 25.

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!