Although a majority of ministers on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation have publicly endorsed making their own votes more transparent and public, a legal opinion by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s legal adviser is blocking any change on the issue, a spokesman for Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said on Sunday.
Livni has been pressing for greater transparency on a range of issues relating to the government, but has encountered strong resistance at various points.
According to a review of the ministers, seven are in favor of transparency in voting, one partially in favor, three against and two did not respond.
Among the majority of ministers on the committee who favor making their votes more transparent are Health Minister Yael German and Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, even though their party leader, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, opposes the proposal.
Lapid’s spokeswoman said “we do not reveal the minister’s votes in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation intentionally. We think that making ministers’ votes in the committee public will cause the discussions to become populist.”
“Our positions, which are expressed in many avenues, are made clear even without publicizing the protocols or votes, which find their way into the press, anyway,” the spokeswoman added.
Both Bayit Yehudi ministers – Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel and Pensioners’ Affairs Minister Uri Orbach – support transparency, as do half of the Likud’s ministers – Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat and Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan. Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz did not answer The Jerusalem Post‘s inquiry.
Two of three Yisrael Beytenu ministers in the committee, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir and Immigration Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, oppose making the panel more transparent.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich said he is in favor of greater transparency in principle, but qualified his support with reference to relevant legal considerations and regulations.
Despite the above, Livni’s office said that Netanyahu’s legal adviser Avichai Mandelblit’s legal opinion that only a full government vote can change the issue is what is holding up any change.
Neither the Prime Minister’s office nor Mandelblit had responded for comment by press time.
Pressed on the issue of why Livni was not then pressing for a government-wide vote, Livni’s office implied that they might not have enough votes outside of the committee.
In May 2013, Livni and Mandelblit faced off over the issue, with Livni saying that “despite significant resistance” she would move forward with her transparency initiative.
But Mandelblit, who until not long ago was responsible for maintaining a wide blanket of secrecy as the IDF’s Magistrate Advocate General, told Livni and the committee in May that the votes could not be publicized without a decision of the government to change the articles of operations for the government.
At the time Livni had said that if it is necessary, she would work to speedily bring the issue to a full vote of the government, but this has not yet transpired.
Also in May, Habayit Hayehudi’s Orit Struck said that the back and forth between Livni and Mandelblit strengthened the need to pass a formal law that she and Likud MK Yariv Levin had proposed for increasing transparency.
Struck said that the resistance to “voluntarily” make matters more transparent, necessitated a formal legal obligation in the form of a new Knesset law.
Livni rejected Struck’s approach saying that not all issues have to be fixed by formal legislation, and that many issues, such as this one, are better dealt with through the flexibility of government decisions or executive regulations.
The justice minister has also pushed for greater transparency in addressing corruption issues and regarding the Judicial Appointments Committee.
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