‘Barkat Law’ Limiting Campaign Self-Funding Passes Knesset Preliminary Reading

The Knesset on Wednesday approved for preliminary reading a bill aimed at limiting the ability of wealthy candidates to self-finance their political campaigns.

The bill became known as the “Barkat Law” because it is widely seen as targeting Likud MP Nir Barkat, who is considered the richest member of the Knesset and is seen as a potential successor to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading the opposition party.

The law would prohibit public servants running for public office – and their family members – from contributing more than 100,000 NIS ($ 32,000) per year to their own campaigns.

The Knesset rejected a version of the bill introduced by Likud MP David Amsalem, then approved a version released by New Hope MP Sharren Haskel, 64-17.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the coalition should not support Amsalem’s legislation, but rather Haskel’s version, because the Likud MP “leads a violent and abusive speech in the Knesset plenum and makes shame on the status of the Knesset ”.

The bill was submitted to the ministerial committee on legislation on Monday. The committee, chaired by Justice Minister Gideon Saar, supported the proposal and recommended the creation of a coalition committee to consider it further.

An explanatory text says the legislation aims “for equality, integrity and preventing the purchase of power with money”, as well as preventing politicians from depending on wealth and mitigating the impact of money on the elect.

“Sometimes a rich candidate’s campaign does not allow quality candidates who are not independently wealthy to be elected and represent the industry they come from,” the legislation says. “Therefore, limits should be placed on the use of private funds of officials and Knesset candidates to ensure that not only those with personal wealth will be represented in Israeli democracy. “

Barkat, the former mayor of Jerusalem, has long sought to position himself as Netanyahu’s successor, much to the chagrin of loyalists of the former prime minister. The Likud MP said on Monday that the legislation shows how frightened his political opponents are.

“They are scared, scared,” Barkat said in a video message filmed in the Knesset and shared on social media. “And they know why, a bunch of riders and dealers have come 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 a shekel a year.”

The wealthy MP refused to take his salary and only accepts one shekel a year. Barkat’s net worth has been estimated to be around 500 million shekels ($ 139 million).

In a speech by the Knesset’s quarantine section on Monday evening, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett – forced to run by the opposition – criticized Likud for what he called misplaced priorities.

“The opposition unfortunately doesn’t care that we are in the middle of a pandemic with a variant considered to be the fastest and most contagious in human history,” Bennett said.

“They are busy with important issues like the ‘new Likudniks’, the ‘Barkat law’ and verbally attacking Benny Begin,” the son of former prime minister and Likud co-founder Menachem Begin.

Incidentally, Bennett also attacked Barkat, criticizing him for his constant travel to Washington, ostensibly to lobby against the reopening of the US consulate in Jerusalem which serves the Palestinians.

“When it comes to the consulate, I usually don’t have a particular opinion on internal Likud disputes,” Bennett said. “As they say, good luck to both parties. But Congressman Nir Barkat, who is trying, if I understand correctly, to challenge Netanyahu, has been advised to make a lot of noise on the issue of the consulate in Jerusalem.

“Going to Washington, coming back from Washington, gathering forces, that’s a big deal,” Bennett scoffed. “You are making a lot of noise, but what you have done has left Israel worse off. “

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