Three out of four members of the Knesset Ethics Committee threatened to quit Wednesday, May 10, over a proposed change to the Knesset’s ethics rules limiting which NGOs can sponsor lawmakers’ trips abroad. Knesset House Committee Chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud) proposed the change, by which MKs cannot go on trips paid for by organizations calling to boycott Israel or “regions of Israel” – meaning, settlements – Israeli products, academia or culture, or which seek to put Israelis on trial for war crimes.”
The House Committee would be the panel to approve the change, but the Ethics Committee would have to enact it, as the committee authorizes MKs’ trips abroad. Currently, the Ethics Committee does not check any details of the trip except that it is not for profit or private needs.
Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon opposed the change, saying that it is both anti-constitutional and practically problematic, and goes against the idea of parliamentary immunity, which is meant to ensure freedom of political action for MKs.
Ethics Committee Chairman Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) said that the day the new rules are approved, he will resign. Hadash MK Yussef Jabareen (Joint List) and MK Eyal Ben Reuven (Zionist Union) also said they would resign if the initiative were approved.
“This is a change in the rules of the game of freedom of expression and political activity for MKs,” Jabareen lamented. “It’s clear that from the moment that an organization can’t fund a trip, MKs won’t be able to fund it themselves, so they just won’t go.” He added: “If this is approved, we’ll meet at the Supreme Court.”
At the end of the meeting, Kisch decided not to hold a vote, but said that he is determined to get approval for the new rule, and “threats” will not stop him.
“This is a clear message: The Knesset will not authorize or promote ties with anti-Israel bodies,” Kisch emphasized.