Israel

   

Quality of Democracy

#30
Key Findings
With ongoing tension over its treatment of Palestinians, Israel receives low rankings (rank 30) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.5 points relative to 2014.

Despite generally open and free elections, candidates can be banned for rejecting Israel’s Jewish identity, among other issues. Parties receive private and public funding, with considerable spending oversight and large fines levied for rule violations. A new law tightens oversight of overseas money being used to influence domestic elections.

Israeli Arabs’ underrepresentation in the broadcast media and in public-opinion surveys has gained new attention. Military supervision and censorship of media outlets has intensified. Laws penalizing criticism of the Israeli state or Israeli symbols are becoming more common. Arabs experience systematic discrimination and infringements of civil rights, and are politically marginalized.

Gender equality remains a significant concern. The judiciary is independent and regularly rules against the government. A number of prominent politicians have been involved in corruption scandals, with investigations targeting the prime minister and other figures.

Electoral Processes

#30

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

10
 9

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
 8
 7
 6


A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
 5
 4
 3


Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
 2
 1

Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
Candidacy Procedures
8
Israel is an electoral democracy. While it does not have an official constitution, one of its basic laws (“The Knesset,” 1958), which holds special standing in the Israeli legal framework, provides for general, free, equal, discrete, direct and proportional elections, to be held every four years. The basic law promises equal opportunity for each Israeli citizen (as well as Jewish settlers in the territories) to elect and to be elected under certain reasonable restraints. To be elected for the Knesset, a candidate has to be a citizen over the age of 21, with no incarceration totaling more than a three-month period in the seven years prior to his/her nomination (unless authorized by the head of the Central Elections Committee(CEC)). If the nominee has held a prominent public office (as specified in the written law) he or she must wait until the expiration of a waiting period before running. Under the party law of 1992, the general elections are led by the Central Elections Committee, which is in charge of organizing the actual elections procedurally and tallying the final votes. The committee is also authorized to reject a nominee or a list based on three potential causes: 1) the rejection of Israel’s Jewish and democratic identity; 2) the provision of support for another country’s armed battle against Israel and/or a terror organization; and 3) incitement of racism. Israel is ranked first in the Middle East in the Electoral Integrity Project’s Perceptions of Electoral Integrity listing, and 22nd in the global ranking (with an especially high score for electoral procedures).

Due to its significant weight in the electoral process the CEC is chaired by a Supreme Court judge and is assembled according to a proportional system. This allows each faction in the Knesset to be represented. In addition, the formation of the group is meant to balance the political aspect of the committee with a judicial one to ensure proper conduct. In order to disqualify a nominee, the committee must receive authorization from the Supreme Court. In the 2015 elections the committee disqualified the nomination of parliament member Hanin Zohaby (Balad), and the extreme right-wing activist Baruch Marzel (Yachad), claiming that they were in breach of article 2 and 3 respectively of the Knesset basic law. Both decisions were reversed by the Supreme Court. Out of 12 disqualifications made by the central committee, the Supreme Court only upheld three: the socialist list (1964), kah (1988, 1992) and Kahana (1988). Recently, a bill was introduced in the Knesset suggesting that the Supreme Court be barred from ruling on CEC decisions regarding candidates’ electoral eligibility.

Another notable feature of the electoral landscape is the suspension law enacted in 2016. This law allows the suspension of a Knesset member if a supermajority of the Knesset votes that this member has deviated from appropriate behavior. The law drew much criticism, mostly from opposition members, but also from some members of the coalition. Most of the criticism revolved around the assertion that the Knesset lacks the authority to suspend a member, and that this authority should instead be given to a court. In addition, some critics raised concerns that votes to suspend a member would be influenced by political considerations, and that the law would “severely weaken Israel’s democratic character.”

Citations:
Azolai, Moran. “The Suspension Law was approved in the Knesset,” 29.03.2016, Ynet (Hebrew): http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4784299,00.html
“Basic Laws: ‘The Knesset’” Knesset official website: www.knesset.gov.il/description/eng/ eng-mimshal_yesod1.htm (English)

Fuchs, Amir. “MK Suspension Bill: Anti-Democratic to the Core,” 06.06.2016 https://en.idi.org.il/articles/2357

Hezki, Baruch. “Bill to bar Supreme Court from deciding who can run for Knesset,” 26.10.2017, Arutz Sheva: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/237241

Hobal, Ravital, “The majority of the judges rejected the petition regarding the election threshold,” 14.1.2015, Haarez (Hebrew): http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/elections/.premium-1.2538960

Htoka, Shusi. “Rivlin: the Suspension Law – an example of problematic understanding of the democracy,” 15.02.16: http://www.mako.co.il/news-military/politics-q1_2016/Article-5450e808bd5e251004.htm


Norris, P. and Grömping, M. (2017). “Populist threats to electoral integrity: The Year in Elections, 2016-2017,” The Electoral Integrity Project, https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/the-year-in-elections-2016/


Shamir, Michal and Margal, Keren, “Notions on threat and disqualification of lists and nominees for the Knesset: from Yardur to the 2003 election, Mishpat & Mimshal 8, tashsa, pp. 119-154 (Hebrew).

“Summary of laws relating to the general elections,” from the Knesset official website (Hebrew)

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

10
 9

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
 8
 7
 6


Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
 5
 4
 3


Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
 2
 1

Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media Access
7
One of the foundation stones of Israel’s democracy is the county’s free press and media. As a part of this system, various laws ensure the equality of access for all candidates and parties. Moreover, the criteria for allocation of air time during election campaigns are impartial (that is, not subject to any kind of arbitrary considerations), and are determined by the chairman of the Central Elections Committee (CEC). More specifically, under the election law, it is stated that the CEC chairman determines the radio-broadcasting time that will be provided to each list of candidates (currently, each list is entitled to 25 minutes, plus another six minutes for every member of the departing Knesset), whereas all advertising broadcasts must be funded by the party themselves and must be approved in advance by the CEC chairman. Recently, the elections-law examination committee published a number of new recommendations including: an end to the reservation of radio- and television-broadcast time for each party, an end to the prohibition on political broadcast advertisements for the 60 days before election day, application of the current law on internet media, a removal of archaic clauses, and more. As of the time of writing, these recommendations had not been approved.

While election-broadcasting rights are fair and balanced, everyday access to the media is unequal in several respects. Most notable is the fact that Israeli Arabs interviewees are underrepresented in Hebrew broadcast media. According to the “Representation Index,” a collaboration between the Sikkuy Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, the Seventh Eye media-watchdog journal and the Ifat media research institute, more Israeli Arabs appeared on Israeli television talk shows and on radio in 2016 than ever before, but remained significantly underrepresented. The Seventh Eye media-watchdog journal pointed out last year that in many cases, when conducting public-opinion surveys, the media only contacts Jewish citizens. While those surveys are sometimes presented as representing the Israeli public opinion, the fact that they exclude Arab citizens is usually not mentioned. The exclusion of the Arab population from public-opinion polls was said by some members of the Israel Press Council to reflect a wider phenomenon regarding the media coverage of the Arab population in Israel. Consequently, the Israel Press Council, a voluntary body of publishers, editors, journalists and public representatives, amended Article 14 of its code of ethics to prohibit the exclusion of and discrimination against different populations. Under the terms of this amendment, the Press Council is able to address complaints regarding violation of the article through its ethical courts, which have the authority to impose various punishments on journalists or publications.

Citations:
Hattis Rolef, Susan, Ben Meir, Liat and Zwebner, Sarah, “Party financing and election financing in Israel,” Knesset Research Institute, 21.7.2003 (Hebrew).

Persiko, Oren. “A Step Toward Dealing with the Media’s Attitude Toward Marginalized Populations” (Hebrew), 18.02.2016, the7eye: https://www.the7eye.org.il/193765

Persiko, Oren. “About Bullying and Discrimination” (Hebrew), 30.08.2017, the7eye: https://www.the7eye.org.il/219708

Persiko, Oren. “And not Discriminate or Exclude” (Hebrew), 25.09.2016, the7eye: https://www.the7eye.org.il/262354

Shwartz-Altshuler and Lurie, Guy, “Redesign the Israeli Election Propaganda Arrangements“, Israel Democracy Institute website 6.4.2015, http://www.idi.org.il/%D7%A1%D7%A4%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%95%D7%9E%D7%90%D7%9E%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D/%D7%9E%D7%90%D7%9E%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D/redesigning_propaganda_regulations/ (Hebrew)

Stern, Itay. “Israeli Arab Representation on TV Talk Shows Shot Up in 2016”(Hebrew), 02.02.2017, Haaretz: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.769065”

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

10
 9

All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
 8
 7
 6


The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
 5
 4
 3


While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
 2
 1

The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
Voting and Registration Rights
9
According to the Israeli basic law “The Knesset” (1958), every Israeli citizen above 18 is eligible to vote in general elections. This right is guaranteed under the principle of equality. Thus, it is only limited by the need to exhibit valid government identification with the voter’s name and picture. If a voter refuses to take an ID photo (as is the case with some religious women), the ID will be considered valid if it has been approved by the Ministry of the Interior. Article 10 of the basic law states that the day of the national elections will be a national holiday, with public transportation and public services open, thus giving voters a positive (or, at least, not a negative) incentive to vote. Recently, a bill was presented that would allow voters to choose to vote in a location different than the one in which they are registered, easing the voting process for many citizens.

Up until 1988, the issue of prisoners’ right to vote was not much debated. However, after a number of petitions were submitted to the Supreme Court (Bagatz) the Knesset revised the law to state that a voting box must be stationed in every prison. Handicapped citizens are also entitled to specially equipped voting stations. The state is obligated to offer at least one such station in every city-council district, and at least two in districts with more than 20 regular voting stations. During the voting process, if the voter struggles with the voting procedure for any reason (such as ill health) he or she has the right to ask for assistance by an escort. Much like the case of handicapped people, soldiers on active duty are entitled to vote in special voting stations using a double envelope. Although the mentally ill are usually unable to access voting stations (due to hospitalization or personal constraints), they are not restrained from voting by any specific law.

Israel does not allow citizens that are out of the country (the territories excluded) at the time of the elections to vote unless they have a special status and are thus eligible to do so by law (e.g., embassy employees stationed abroad). However, every citizen has the right to vote without a minimum period of residency in the country.

Information regarding the voting procedure is available via special government-funded information call-in centers, websites and through the media. Problems and complaints are dealt with by the Central Elections Committee.

Citations:
“Basic Laws: The Knesset,” Knesset official website: www.knesset.gov.il/description/eng/ eng-mimshal_yesod1.html“
The 19th election for the Knesset: Information for the voter Q&A,” National election supervisor website (Hebrew)

“Who is allowed to vote?,” Israel Democracy Institute website, November 2002 (Hebrew)

Bander, Arik, “The Election Committee Suggests: Voters Could Vote in A Different Address Than Registered,” Maariv Online, 22.6.2016, http://www.maariv.co.il/news/politics/Article-546545

To what extent is private and public party financing and electoral campaign financing transparent, effectively monitored and in case of infringement of rules subject to proportionate and dissuasive sanction?

10
 9

The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring to that respect. Effective measures to prevent evasion are effectively in place and infringements subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
 8
 7
 6


The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring. Although infringements are subject to proportionate sanctions, some, although few, loopholes and options for circumvention still exist.
 5
 4
 3


The state provides that donations to political parties shall be published. Party financing is subject to some degree of independent monitoring but monitoring either proves regularly ineffective or proportionate sanctions in case of infringement do not follow.
 2
 1

The rules for party and campaign financing do not effectively enforce the obligation to make the donations public. Party and campaign financing is neither monitored independently nor, in case of infringements, subject to proportionate sanctions.
Party Financing
8
Israel has strict rules concerning party financing and electoral campaigns. The most important are the Parties Law (1992) and the Party Financing Law (1992). The two require all parties to document their finances and report them to the State Comptroller. These laws also stipulate the means by which parties can receive income, limiting such sources of income to: 1) party membership dues and fundraising from members, within limits allowed by the Party Financing Law; 2) funds received from the state in accordance with the Party Financing Law; 3) non-public contributions received in accordance with the Party Financing Law; 4) funds received for the purpose of elections in the New Histadrut trade union association, as approved by the New Histadrutl; or 5) funds obtained from party activities, directly or by means of party associations, involving the management of party property and funds under Article 21 of the law.

Furthermore, in order to ensure the application of these two laws, all party financial activities during election time are subject to supervision by the State Comptroller, who has on several occasions issued instructions that have the status of subsidiary legislation. The State Comptroller publishes regular reports regarding party finances, and is in charge of ruling whether there has been a breach of the law regarding party financing and election financing. Moreover, the State Comptroller can rule that a party group must return funds to the state due to illegalities in the receipt of non-public contributions.

A report published by the State Comptroller reviewing the 2015 election campaign indicated that several parties had been fined due to violations of the party financing law, including a ILS 1.8 million fine against the “Bait Hayeudy” party and an ILS 850 thousand for the Likud. Several parties’ funding were not approved during the campaign.

A relatively new amendment to the Party Financing Law was passed on March 2017. This amendment, also known as the V15 bill, aimed at limiting the activities of various non-party bodies seeking to influence the outcome of elections in Israel. It requires these bodies to report their funding sources to the State Comptroller. The amendment was named “V15 bill” after V15, an entity funded by organizations from the United States and Europe that contributed funds during the 2015 election campaign against the Likud party and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Citations:
ACRI. “Anti-NGO Legislation in the Israeli Knesset.” February 2016, http://www.acri.org.il/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Anti-NGO-Bills-Overview-Updated-Febuary-2016.pdf

Drukman, Yaron,“The State Comptroller Report: High Fines to the “Bait Hayeudy,” the Likud, and Hadash,” Ynet, 18.10.2016, http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4867070,00.html

Hattis Rolef, Susan, Ben Meir, Liat and Zwebner, Sarah, “Party financing and elections financing in Israel, Knesset Research Institute, 21.7.2003 (Hebrew).

Keidar, Nitsan. “Knesset approves ‘V15 Law’,” Artuz Sheva (Hebrew), 21.3.2017: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/227024

“Knesset passes controversial ‘transparency’ law on NGO funding,” Jewish Telegraph Agency, 12.07.2016, http://www.jta.org/2016/07/12/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/knesset-passes-controversial-transparency-law-on-ngo-funding

Levinson, H. and Lis, Y. “Netanyahu: the NGO Legislation is too weak, We Shall forbid Foreign Funding of Organizations, Haaretz, 11.6.2017, https://www.haaretz.co.il/news/politi/1.4161298

Do citizens have the opportunity to take binding political decisions when they want to do so?

10
 9

Citizens have the effective opportunity to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums. The set of eligible issues is extensive, and includes national, regional, and local issues.
 8
 7
 6


Citizens have the effective opportunity to take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through either popular initiatives or referendums. The set of eligible issues covers at least two levels of government.
 5
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 3


Citizens have the effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure. The set of eligible issues is limited to one level of government.
 2
 1

Citizens have no effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure.
Popular Decision-Making
2
Israel’s government and parliament have traditionally given little support to popular decision-making mechanisms. However, in March 2014 the Knesset approved a component of the basic law dealing with referendums. This law will apply in the event of an agreement or unilateral decision that involves withdrawal from certain geographical areas. This law has never been applied, but the use of referenda is limited to this particular issue.

Attempts at encouraging popular decision-making mechanisms tend to take the form either of 1) open information projects or websites addressing investigation committees on matters of national interest or 2) special legal provisions allowing for citizen appeals on issues such as urban planning, or enabling citizens to address parliamentary committees on issues that directly concern them. These sorts of initiatives, while important, reflect a top-to-bottom strategy of civil participation rather than encouraging independent initiatives.

Even these initiatives have remained largely in the early stages, and we have been unable to find any meaningful ways through which Israeli citizens can affect the decision process directly (that is, without media pressure, persuasion via lobbying firms or appeal to the courts).

Citations:
Altshuler-Shwartz, Tehila, “Open government policy in Israel in the digital age,” Israel democracy institute, 2012. (Hebrew)

“Future recommendations,” sharing: committee for social and economical transformation website. (Hebrew)


Gefen, Haaron, “The effect of institutionalizing participatory democracy on the level of sharing by public organization employees,” Israel Democracy Institute, 2011 (Hebrew)

Karmon, Yoav “Re-inventing Israel’s Democracy,” Vaksman, Efrat and Blander, Dana, “Models for sharing,” Israel Democracy Institute website 2012 (Hebrew)

“Sharing on governmental issues,” Israeli government website (Hebrew)

Access to Information

#21

To what extent are the media independent from government?

10
 9

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
 8
 7
 6


The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
 5
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 3


The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/ market access for private media.
 2
 1

Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
Media Freedom
6
Israel’s media environment is considered lively and pluralistic. Freedom of the press is generally respected, and neither the government nor the military abuse their power in order to restrict information. Israelis have wide access to free and largely uncensored internet, and the internet penetration rate reached a high level of 78.9% in 2017. Even though the country’s basic laws do not offer direct protection, and censorship agreements accord the military wide discretion over issues of national security, legal protections for the press are robust. The Supreme Court has ruled that freedom of expression is an essential component of human dignity and has continuously defended it, thus providing for the assimilation of this principle within the Israeli political culture.

In Freedom House’s most recent Freedom of the Press rating, the media in Israel was rated as “partly free” (33 out of 100 points). The 2017 World Press Freedom Index also ranked Israel quite low, at 91st place out of 180 countries. These poor evaluations are mainly because of the economic threat to other newspapers presented by the freely distributed Israel Hayom, along with its close ties to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Another reason was the prime minister’s decision to keep the Ministry of Communication under his authority, a decision that was later overturned by the Supreme Court in light of the investigations against him.

As part of an ongoing increase in public awareness about matters of government transparency, the level of public interest in issues concerning media ownership and politicization has grown in recent years. Several reports have exposed the media market’s ownership structures, identifying issues of cross-ownership, crony capitalism and centralization while pointing out the influence such issues have on coverage of political and economic issues.

The law additionally gives immense power to a military censor. Under a 1996 Censorship Agreement between the media and the military, the censor has the power – on the grounds of national security – to penalize, shut down, or stop the printing of a newspaper, or to confiscate its printing machines. In practice, however, journalists often evade restrictions by leaking a story to a foreign outlet and then republishing. Nevertheless, since the beginning of 2016, the military censor has toughened its policies regarding the supervision of content in newspapers, blogs and other social-media channels. Journalists are subject often accused of inciting violence, cooperating with terrorist organizations, or otherwise posing a threat to Israel’s security. Moreover, some bloggers have claimed that the censor has ordered them to pre-submit every text regarding security issues for approval. These practices are another main reason for the country’s low ratings on media-freedom surveys.

Other affairs from recent years additionally seem to have undermined aspects of media independence. In 2016, the Knesset passed a controversial amendment to the Knesset Channel Broadcasting Law that prohibited degrading the Knesset as an institution on the official Knesset-broadcast channel. The law was perceived as attempt to limit the independence of the channel. In 2017, the right-leaning Channel 20 won the rights to broadcast Knesset TV. Critics claimed that Channel 20’s right-wing ideology was the reason it won the tender (for the next 10 years), replacing Channel 2. The Supreme Court suspended the agreement after ruling that the tender process had contained irregularities. Another problem is the rise in libel litigation against journalists, sometimes perceived as so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP). Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has initiated several such suits against journalists, which were criticized as efforts to threaten press freedom.

In 2017, the Israel Broadcasting Authority (“Rashut Hashidor”) was shut down and replaced by a new body, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (Taagid Hashdiur, IPBC). The decision was intended to guarantee the independence of the new body, and was made after many years of political debate and delay. The older authority was said to be expensive and outdated. However, numerous delays to the launch of the new authority were proposed. They were mostly perceived as attempts to limit the new body’s independence. Culture Minister Miri Regev was once cited as asking, “It’s inconceivable that we’ll establish a corporation that we won’t control. What’s the point?” Although Prime Minister Netanyahu sought to close the new corporation, the IPBC eventually started broadcasting on 15 May 2017.

Citations:
Cashman, Greer F., Knesset Approves Amendment to Public Broadcasting Law, The Jerusalem Post, 5.8.2016: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Knesset-approves-amendment-to-Public-Broadcasting-Law-463308

Caspi, Dan, “Media and politics in Israel,” Van Lear and the Kibutz Hameuhad, 2007 (Hebrew).

“Freedom of the Press: Israel 2017,” Freedom House, 2017 https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2017/israel

“2017 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX,” Reporters without Borders,
https://rsf.org/en/israel

Grosman, Nurit, “Freedom of Press in Israel 2016: Overview” in Rafi Mann and Azi Lev-On (eds.), Annual Report: The Israeli Media in 2016 (54-76), New Media, Society and Politics Research Institute, Ariel University, 2016 (Hebrew): http://newsite.aunmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/2016_P5.pdf

Harkov, Lahav, “Knesset Passes Law that Free Media Market,” The Jerusalem Post, 30.05.2017: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Knesset-passes-laws-that-free-media-market-494283

Hizki, Baruch, “The Disgrace Article in the Knesset broadcast Law will be Canceled,” Arutz Sheva, 19.6.2016 (Hebrew): https://www.inn.co.il/News/News.aspx/324322

“Israeli Media Is Another Example of Crony Capitalism,” Haaretz 2.11.2015: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.683677

“Israel Freedom of the Press Country Report 2016,” Freedom House website: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2016/israel (English)

“Map of Media Ownership of the Israeli Media“, The seventh eye website: 2.12.2014: http://www.the7eye.org.il/50534 (Hebrew)

Persiko, Oren. “Control Through Prevision,” The seventh eye website, 4.10.16 (Hebrew) http://www.the7eye.org.il/191753

Ravid, Barak. “Miri Regev: Why Set Up New Broadcasting Corporation if We Don’t Control It? read more: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.734527,” Haaretz, 31.07.2016: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.734527

Ravid, Barak and Chaim Levinson, “Netanyahu Appoints Ayoub Kara as Communications Minister,” Haaretz, 28.05.2017: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.792289

Staff, Toi, “Court blocks right-wing station from producing Knesset Channel,” The Times of Israel, 20.7.2017: https://www.timesofisrael.com/court-blocks-right-wing-station-from-producing-knesset-channel/

Tucker, Nati. “Found Guilty of Libel for Facebook Post About Netanyahu, Crowdfunding Campaign Helps Cover Journalist’s Costs,” Haaretz, 20.6.2017 : https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.796804

Tucker, Nati, “’Israel Hayom’ and marketing content cased a deteriorate in ranking of media freedom in Israel,” 27.04.2016 (English): http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/education/.premium-1.2928144

Tucker, Nati and Teig, Amir, “Israel Broadcasting Authority to Be Shut Down and Replaced,” Haaretz, 06.03.2014, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/business/.premium-1.578372

To what extent are the media characterized by an ownership structure that ensures a pluralism of opinions?

10
 9

Diversified ownership structures characterize both the electronic and print media market, providing a well-balanced pluralism of opinions. Effective anti-monopoly policies and impartial, open public media guarantee a pluralism of opinions.
 8
 7
 6


Diversified ownership structures prevail in the electronic and print media market. Public media compensate for deficiencies or biases in private media reporting by representing a wider range of opinions.
 5
 4
 3


Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize either the electronic or the print media market. Important opinions are represented but there are no or only weak institutional guarantees against the predominance of certain opinions.
 2
 1

Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize both the electronic and the print media market. Few companies dominate the media, most programs are biased, and there is evidence that certain opinions are not published or are marginalized.
Media Pluralism
6
The pluralistic makeup of Israeli society is reflected by the press landscape, which includes more than a dozen daily newspapers and a wide range of weeklies and news websites serving readers from various religious, ethnic and linguistic groups. A similarly diverse selection of broadcast media is also available in Israel, including local radio stations that cater to the country’s regional communities as well as the ultra-orthodox, Russian-speaking and Arabic-speaking populations.

Israeli policy toward media pluralism follows a “multivalued approach,” in the sense that it views an open media field as a part of the democratic order, and thus values it not only for economic purposes but for normative ones as well. This view justifies utilizing special regulatory tools (as opposed to exclusive antitrust regulation) in order to prevent concentration of ownership and cross-ownership in the media sector. In this spirit, media regulation in Israel also addresses issues of content (specifically regarding issues of local production and censorship).

In practice, media regulation in Israel largely structural, controlling ownership in broadcast organizations (radio, public television, and private television via cable or satellite). The regulators are charged with authorizing broadcast rights and enforcing regulations in matters of ownership concentration, cross-ownership and foreign ownership. According to the Freedom House 2017 report, ownership concentration among private broadcast stations remains an issue of concern. The print media is not under the same restraints and is instead addressed through antitrust regulation or voluntary self-regulation. Most news websites in Israel are operated by print-media companies. There are current attempts to expand regulation within the digital sphere, but as of the time of writing, the parliament had passed no laws in this area.

A comprehensive media-ownership map that tracks the identities of tycoons, corporations and other entities that control Israel’s media companies and outlets shows diversified ownership structures both in the electronic and print-media markets. The public and regulated private media compensates for deficiencies or biases in private-media reporting by ensuring representation of a wide range of opinions. Israel’s diverse newspaper industry was joined in 2007 by “Israel Hayom,” a free daily newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson, an American businessman who is openly aligned with the prime minister and the Likud party. This paper quickly captured 40% of the market, thus raising concerns due to its partisan coverage and its negative effect on competing commercial newspapers.

Citations:
Agmon, Tamir and Tsadik, Ami, “Analyzing economic ramifications of centralization and cross ownerships in the Media,” Knesset Research and Information Center, 2.11.2011 (Hebrew)

Tal, Yizhar and Ivry-Omer, Dina, “Regulation of electronic communications services in Israel: The need to establish a communications Authority,” Policy research 76 IDI, November 2009: http://en.idi.org.il/media/277043/pp_76.pdf (Hebrew)

Tucker, Nati, “Why did Shlom Ben Tzvi disappear?,” theMarker 3.10.2014: http://www.themarker.com/markerweek/1.2449472 (Hebrew).

Zrahiya, Zvi, “Israel’s media is riddled with alien interests,” 15.11.2011, http://www.haaretz.com/business/israel-s-media-is-riddled-with-alien-i nterests1.395639?localLinksEnabled =false

“Freedom of the Press: Israel 2017,” Freedom House, 2017, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2017/israel

Media Ownership Map, The Seventh Eye website: http://www.the7eye.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/the-7th-eye-israel-media-ownership-map2016-english.pdf

To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

10
 9

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
 8
 7
 6


Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
 5
 4
 3


Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
 2
 1

Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
Access to Government Information
8
Israel has a freedom of information law (1998) allowing each citizen or resident to apply for information regarding a government authority’s activity, whether written, filmed, recorded or digitized. This legal standing has been the basis of considerable activity by NGOs and private individuals. For instance, municipal authorities and government offices issue online reports detailing their progress in various areas. Naturally, the right to freedom of information is not absolute, with reasonable restrictions on the basis of national security or privacy issues. However, an analysis issued by the Israel Democracy Institute in 2008 stated that the restrictions are reasonable, and they do not prevent the law from reaching its main goal: to assist in creating a more transparent and accountable government. In addition, the right-to-privacy law (1998) grants individuals the right to access their personal information held in government or private-entity databases. The implementation of this law is enforced by the registrar of databases in the Ministry of Justice, and petitioners can appeal to the courts if they find that government practice does not accord with the law.

In 2011, government decision no. 2950 established a designated unit for freedom of information in the Ministry of Justice. The unit is also in charged with implementing OECD guidelines for information management and sharing. As part of its mandate it publishes a yearly progress report. According to the unit, 6,659 applications were received in 2016. A total of 63% of applications received replies within the legally mandated 30-day period. According to the report, the unit released classified correspondence and documentation following the request of the official committee investigating the Yemeni children affair.

In addition, in 2016, the government announced the launch of a program designed to open all governmental databases to public access. This step furthers an ongoing policy of increasing transparency by expanding the authority of the Governmental Unit for Freedom of Information, and by financing this unit’s projects.

Citations:
“About the unit for freedom of information,” The Ministry of Justice website: http://index.justice.gov.il/Units/YechidatChofeshHameyda/About/Pages/OdotHayechida.aspx (Hebrew)

“Freedom of Information Law,” 1998: http://www.freedominfo.org/documents/Israel–FOIL1998.pdf

“Protection of privacy law,” 1981: http://www.justice.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/C5205E15-3FE9-4037-BA0F-62212B40773A/18334/ProtectionofPrivacyLaw57411981unofficialtranslatio.pdf

“The movement for freedom of information”: http://www.meida.org.il/

“Annual Report of the unit for freedom of information: 2016,” The Ministry of Justice website: http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/YechidatChofeshHameyda/PeilotHayehida/DohotHayhida/ReportYears/Pages/report2016.aspx

“The Government approved today the publication of all governmental databases,” http://www.themarker.com/news/politics/1.3053541 (Hebrew)

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#38

To what extent does the state respect and protect civil rights and how effectively are citizens protected by courts against infringements of their rights?

10
 9

All state institutions respect and effectively protect civil rights. Citizens are effectively protected by courts against infringements of their rights. Infringements present an extreme exception.
 8
 7
 6


The state respects and protects rights, with few infringements. Courts provide protection.
 5
 4
 3


Despite formal protection, frequent infringements of civil rights occur and court protection often proves ineffective.
 2
 1

State institutions respect civil rights only formally, and civil rights are frequently violated. Court protection is not effective.
Civil Rights
5
By law, the effort to safeguard civil rights is constituted in the basic law’s section on human dignity and liberty, which protects the right of each citizen to privacy, property, dignity, life and so forth.

This basic law is procedurally protected from nullification. However, aspects of the law can be overruled under specific conditions of urgency as stated by the government and the courts.

Much of the work of protecting civil rights in Israel is done through acts of judicial review, operating independently of the legislative and executive branches. Civil rights claims are voiced through media pressure, NGO activities, appeals to the Supreme Court, legislative amendments and appeals to government bodies that investigate public complaints.

The basic law in Israel does not grant individuals the right to express their opinions; however, the Supreme Court has affirmed this right as an essential component of human dignity. Despite this ruling, the Knesset has adopted legislation that severely curtails the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. The Boycott Prohibition Law and the Budget Foundations Law impose economic sanctions on anyone that expresses opinions criticizing injustices and human-rights violations in the Occupied Territories.

Moreover, there is a gap between the formal guarantees of equal civil rights and the reality of unequal opportunities as experienced mainly by the Arab minority, primarily due to the conflict between civil rights and other core social values such as religious identity, security and communal rights. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) has highlighted legislative activity over the last year that threatens civil rights, including the successful Entry to Israel bill (prohibiting persons who support a boycott against the State of Israel from entering the State of Israel), bills relating to contempt of the flag (an amendment to the law proposing significantly stricter penalties for those who harm the flag of Israel), a state education-bill amendment targeting organizations that “oppose educational values” and the armed forces, and more.

The ACRI’s annual report for 2016 pained a complex picture of human-rights safeguards and violations. The report identified some civil rights violations such as the intention to increase enforcement and punishment of building violations within the Arab population and ongoing discriminatory planning processes targeting the Bedouin population in the Negev. Alongside civil rights violations, there were some positive developments regarding health, housing and the rights of persons with mental or cognitive disabilities. In addition, three groundbreaking reports recognizing long-term discrimination against these groups were released: a report on the economic integration of the Arab minority, the Biton Report on empowering the Sephardi and Mizrachi cultures, and the report of the Palmor Committee on discrimination against Ethiopian-Israelis. However, few of the recommendations in these reports were expected to be implemented in the 2017 – 2018 state budget.

Citations:
Dahan, Tal, “Situation report: The state of human rights in Israel and the OPT 2016,” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, http://www.acri.org.il/campaigns/report2016en/

Adalah, Adalah’s Annual Report of Activities 2016, April 2017, https://www.adalah.org/uploads/uploads/PDF_Adalah’s_Annual_Report_of_Activities_2016_15.4.2017_FINAL.pdf

“Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty”: http://www.knesset.gov.il/laws/spec ial/eng/basic3_eng.htm

Hermann, Tamar et.al., The Israeli Democracy Index 2016, The Israel Democracy Institute, Jerusalem 2016. https://en.idi.org.il/media/7811/democracy-index-2016-eng.pdf

CIVICUS Monitor. “Tracking civic space,” 01.09.2016, https://monitor.civicus.org/newsfeed/2016/09/01/expression-Israel/

CIVICUS and Bread for the World (Brot für die Welt, Germany), “Atlas of the civil society. Report of the world situation” (German), January 2018.

To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

10
 9

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
 8
 7
 6


All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
 5
 4
 3


State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
 2
 1

Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
Political Liberties
5
Israel’s lack of a constitution means that the guarantee of political rights is given the same status as basic laws. Thus, they are not constitutional as such. For these and other reasons, the responsibility to protect political liberties still lies with Israeli parliament. However, parliamentary activity has not been conducive to this task. Several recent pieces of proposed legislation appear to undermine aspects of democracy and due process.

A law passed in March 2011 requires the state to fine or withdraw funds from local authorities and other state-funded groups that hold events marking Al-Nakba (the 1948 displacement of the Palestinian population) on Israeli independence day, support armed resistance or “racism” against Israel, or desecrate the state flag or national symbols. The law was intended to target Arab bodies financed through the state budget that commemorate the Al-Nakba events. However, during the period under review, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev called several times for the withdrawal of funding from cultural institutions for violating the law. On one occasion, she argued that the Jewish-Arab Jaffa theater “has turned from a platform for culture into a platform for terror.” Regev also proposed the so-called Culture Loyalty Bill, which would have allowed politicians to deny funding to cultural institutions that “contravene the principles of the state.” The bill was not approved, but was perceived by the Israel Union of Preforming Artists as an attempt to undermine the freedom of expression and artistic freedom.

Another controversial measure is the so-called Boycott Law, passed in July 2011, which exposes Israeli individuals and groups to civil lawsuits if they advocate an economic, cultural or academic boycott on Israel or the West Bank settlements. An amendment to the law is currently being discussed, which would toughen its provisions by allowing “a body or person working to encourage the boycott of Israel eligible to be sued for ILS 100,000 ($28,500) without proof of damages – or ILS 500,000 ($142,500) with proof of damages.”

The Transparency Requirements for Parties Supported by Foreign State Entities Bill, requires NGOs receiving more than half their income from foreign governments to report this fact annually to the Justice Ministry’s registrar of nonprofit associations. This bill was criticized as applying almost solely to human-rights and left-leaning organizations. According to Justice Ministry statistics, only 27 organizations in Israel that get more than half their funding from foreign governments. Of these, 25 are human-rights-focused organizations identified with the left.

The list of other problematic legislation includes the recently passed Entry to Israel law (prohibiting anyone who supports a boycott against the state of Israel from entering the country), several bills relating to contempt of the flag (one recently passed amendment to the law imposes significantly stricter penalties on those who harm the flag of Israel), a state education bill amendment (awaiting approval as of the time of writing) targeting organizations that “oppose educational values” and the armed forces, and more. However, many problematic proposals have not won parliamentary passage, or were eventually softened in part due to public opposition.

Citations:
Ben Shitrit, Lihi, “Israel’s Shrinking Democracy.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 10.03.2016, http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/63006

Cohen, Hanan. “The Nakba Law,” IDI, 24.05.2014: https://www.idi.org.il/articles/4640

Dahan, Tal, “Situation report: The state of human rights in Israel and the OPT 2016,” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, http://www.acri.org.il/campaigns/report2016en/

“Freedom in the world 2017,” Freedom House website: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2017

“Escalation in Israeli Minister’s Culture War,” Haaretz, 8.9.2017: https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/editorial/1.811237

“Israel minister pursues tougher anti-BDS law,” Memo Middle Rast Monitor, 2.11.2017: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171102-israel-minister-pursues-tougher-anti-bds-law/

Knesset Press Release “Knesset passes NGO transparency law,” 12.07.2016, http://main.knesset.gov.il/News/PressReleases/pages/press120716.aspx (Hebrew)

Lis, Jonathan, Yair Ashkenazi, Jack Khoury and Sharon Pulwer, “Israel’s Nationalistic ‘Loyalty in Culture’ Bill Passes Legal Test,” Haaretz, 25.2.2016: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.705312

“Project Democracy: The Arab minority,” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (October 2010). http://democracy-project.org.il/he/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/democracy-minorities.pdf

Steinber, Jessica, Miri Regev’s cultural war heats, The Times of Israel, 29.1.2016: https://www.timesofisrael.com/miri-regevs-cultural-war-heats-up/

Yishai, Yael, “Civil Society in Israel,” Carmel, Jerusalem, 2003.

Freedom House, “Freedom in the World 2018,” https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/israel

How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

10
 9

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
 8
 7
 6


State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
 5
 4
 3


State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
 2
 1

The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
Non-discrimination
5
Israel’s main venue for dealing with cases of discrimination is the court system, particularly the Supreme Court, which address cases of discrimination against women and minorities in professional, public and state spheres. The country has long-standing institutional mechanisms intended to promote equality, such as the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in the Ministry of the Economy. However, these tend to offer ad hoc solutions instead of comprehensive and long-term plans. Attempts to pass a basic law protecting equality, thus enshrining this normative concept alongside existing laws protecting human dignity and liberty, have proved unsuccessful. Instead, the struggle against discrimination is usually fought through Israel’s media and in the form of vigorous NGO activity.

Progress has been made in recent years in the areas of women’s rights and gay rights. The government addressed the expanding industries of human trafficking and prostitution by opening designated shelters for victims and passing a 2006 law imposing prison terms of up to 20 years for perpetrators. The gay community has also achieved prominent victories; non-biological same-sex parents have been made eligible for guardianship rights and same-sex marriages conducted in foreign countries are now recognized by the state, with the first gay divorce granted in 2012.

The country has generally positive measures protecting the rights of disabled persons. The Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities has stated that the gap between the general employment rate and the disabled employed population is constantly closing, and that the employment rate among disabled persons is rising (to 78% in 2013).The commission’s work is based on the Equal Rights Law for Persons with Disabilities (1998), which mandates Israel to “protect the dignity and liberty of persons with disabilities and anchor their right to equal and active participation in society in all fields of life, as well as properly provide for their special needs in a manner enabling them to spend their lives in maximum independence, privacy and dignity, while making the most of their capabilities.” Examples outside the labor market include fines for a lands authority for releasing a promotional video degrading Mizrahi Israelis; police raids targeting nightclubs and other entertainment venues applying discriminatory selection criteria; and police arrests of people linked to the racist “La Familia” organization.

However, numerous troubling signs remain. Discrimination against Palestinians is widespread and systematic. Following Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Arab residents were issued Israeli identity cards and given the option of obtaining Israeli citizenship, though most choose not to seek citizenship for political reasons. These non-citizens have many of the same rights as Israeli citizens, except the right to vote in national elections. They can vote in municipal as well as Palestinian Authority elections and remain eligible to apply for Israeli citizenship. However, Israeli law strips non-citizens of their local residency if they stay outside the city for more than three months. The most recent annual report of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel argued that there is “institutionalized and long-standing neglect and discrimination against the Arab population in the areas of land allocation, planning and housing.”

A 2003 law denies citizenship or residency status to Palestinian residents of the West Bank or Gaza who marry Israeli citizens. This measure affects about 15,000 couples and has been criticized as blatantly discriminatory. In 2011, the Knesset passed a law allowing the courts to revoke the citizenship of any Israeli convicted of spying, treason or aiding the enemy. A number of civil rights groups and the Shin Bet security service criticized the legislation as unnecessary and overly burdensome.

Women still face discrimination in the labor market, earning lower average wages and salaries than men (women’s average per-hour wage is 83% of the comparable wage for men). Moreover, woman, Arabs and people with low incomes are underrepresented in technological and scientific study courses and work environments, a factor indicating persistent inequality in the educational system.

Citations:
Dahan, Tal, “Situation report: The state of human rights in Israel and the OPT 2016,” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, http://www.acri.org.il/campaigns/report2016en/

Adalah, Adalah‘s Annual Report of Activities 2016, April 2017, https://www.adalah.org/uploads/uploads/PDF_Adalah’s_Annual_Report_of_Activities_2016_15.4.2017_FINAL.pdf

Swirsky, S., E. Konor-Atias, “Social status report 2016,” January 2017. (Hebrew)
http://adva.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/SocialReport2016.pdf

Tzameret-Kertcher, Hagar et al. “The Gender Index, Gender Inequality in Israel 2016,” The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, http://genderindex.vanleer.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/%D7%9E%D7%93%D7%93-%D7%94%D7%9E%D7%92%D7%93%D7%A8-2016-%D7%9B%D7%A4%D7%95%D7%9C%D7%AA-%D7%A2%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%93%D7%99%D7%9D.pdf

Zohar, Gal, “Equal participation – comparative view- Israel and the World,” Report to the Ministry of Justice, 2016
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:wFtosSXqLwAJ:www.justice.gov.il/Units/NetzivutShivyon/SiteDocs/Disabilities-Affirmative-Action-Report.docx+&cd=2&hl=iw&ct=clnk&gl=il

Rule of Law

#21

To what extent do government and administration act on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions to provide legal certainty?

10
 9

Government and administration act predictably, on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions. Legal regulations are consistent and transparent, ensuring legal certainty.
 8
 7
 6


Government and administration rarely make unpredictable decisions. Legal regulations are consistent, but leave a large scope of discretion to the government or administration.
 5
 4
 3


Government and administration sometimes make unpredictable decisions that go beyond given legal bases or do not conform to existing legal regulations. Some legal regulations are inconsistent and contradictory.
 2
 1

Government and administration often make unpredictable decisions that lack a legal basis or ignore existing legal regulations. Legal regulations are inconsistent, full of loopholes and contradict each other.
Legal Certainty
5
A number of institutions are responsible for legal review of government and administration activities. The State Comptroller, the Attorney General of Israel and the Supreme Court (ruling as the High Court of Justice) conduct legal reviews of the actions of the government and administration. The Attorney General represents the state in courts. The officeholder participates regularly in government meetings, and in charge of protecting the rule of law in the public’s interest. His or her legal opinion is critical, and even mandatory in some cases. The Supreme Court hears appeals from citizens and Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (even though Israeli law is not officially applied in the latter). These petitions, as filed by individuals or civic organizations, constitute an important instrument by which to force the state to explain and justify its actions.

The judiciary in Israel is independent and regularly rules against the government. For example, in September 2017, the Supreme Court struck down the government’s policy on recruiting ultra-orthodox Jewish citizens into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Although the state generally adheres to court rulings, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) reported in 2009 that the state was in contempt of eight rulings handed down by the Supreme Court since 2006, including a 2006 rerouting of the West Bank security and separation barrier in the OPT.

Some legal arrangements provide for ad hoc state action when security threats emerge. The Emergency Powers (Detention) Law of 1979 provides for indefinite administrative detention without trial. According to a human rights group, there were 475 Palestinians incarcerated under such charges at the end of May 2017. A temporary order in effect since 2006 permits the detention of suspects accused of security offenses for 96 hours without judicial oversight, compared with 24 hours for other detainees. Israel outlawed the use of torture to extract security information in 2000, but milder forms of coercion are permissible when the prisoner is believed to have vital information about impending terrorist attacks.

The current government has been criticized for seeking to weaken the so-called gatekeepers of democracy, both through verbal attacks on the entities most closely associated with maintaining the rule of law, and through legislative initiatives seeking to undermine these entities’ powers in fact. In a speech at the opening of the winter session of the Knesset, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin stated that, “Today, we are witnessing the winds of a revolution… This time, the rule of the majority – is the sole ruler…everything is political – the media is political, the democratic institutions, all of them – from the professional clerks to the State Comptroller – are political, the Supreme Court is political, the security forces are political, and even the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, is political. The entire country and its institutions – political. This revolution wants to finally tear the supposed masks of hypocrisy from the faces of all the gatekeepers.”

Citations:
“Administrative detention,” B’tselem http://www.btselem.org/administrative_detention/statistics

Barzilay, Gad and David Nachmias,” The Attorney General to the government: Authority and responsibility,” IDI website September 1997 (Hebrew)

Bob, Y. J. “Court orders Government to pass new law or draft all Haredim,” Jerusalem Post, 12.9.2017, http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Court-orders-govt-to-pass-new-law-or-draft-all-haredim-504901

“Knesset opens Winter Assembly; Speaker Edelstein: ”Parliament`s status eroded due to lack of separation of powers,” The Knesset Website, 23.10.2017: https://www.knesset.gov.il/spokesman/eng/PR_eng.asp?PRID=13599

Weitz, Gidi. “In Israel, No Gatekeepers to Stop Netanyahu’s War on Media,” Haaretz, 02.04.2017: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.780680

To what extent do independent courts control whether government and administration act in conformity with the law?

10
 9

Independent courts effectively review executive action and ensure that the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 8
 7
 6


Independent courts usually manage to control whether the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 5
 4
 3


Courts are independent, but often fail to ensure legal compliance.
 2
 1

Courts are biased for or against the incumbent government and lack effective control.
Judicial Review
9
The Supreme Court is generally viewed as a highly influential institution. It has repeatedly intervened in the political domain to review the legality of political agreements, decisions and allocations. Since a large part of the Supreme Court’s judicial review in recent years is over the activities of a rightist coalition and parliament, it is often criticized for being biased toward the political left. In the 2013 – 2014 period, the Supreme Court was similarly criticized for overturning an “infiltration law” set up to implement policy regarding illegal immigration. Nevertheless, it was ranked as one of the top four most-trustworthy governmental institutions in a 2016 survey conducted by the Israeli Democracy Institute.

The independence of the judiciary system is established in the basic law on the judiciary (1984), various individual laws, the ethical guidelines for judges (2007), numerous Supreme Court rulings and in the Israeli legal tradition more broadly. These instruct governing judicial activity by requiring judgments to be made without prejudice, ensuring that judges receive full immunity, generally banning judges from serving in supplementary public or private positions, and more. Judges are regarded as public trustees, with an independent and impartial judicial authority considered as a critical part of the democratic order.

During the period under review, Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett announced the introduction of a bill that would limit the Supreme Court’s authority to strike down laws. The proposed basic law would include an override provision that would allow a Knesset majority to vote to bypass Supreme Court rulings.

Citations:
Azulai, Moran and Ephraim, Omri, “Overruling the infiltration law: The Knesset goes into battle,” Ynet 23.9.2014: http://ynet.co.il.d4p.net/articles/0,7340,L-4574094,00.html (Hebrew).

Herman, Tamar, “Israeli Democracy index 2016,” The Israel Democracy Institute. (Hebrew) https://www.idi.org.il/media/7799/democracy-index-2016.pdf

Hovel, Revital, “Right-wing Israeli Ministers Introduce Plan Targeting High Court’s Powers,” Haaretz, 15.9.2017, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.812425.

Kremnitzer, Mordechai, “Judicial Responsibility at its Best,” IDI website 31.5.2012 (Hebrew).

Svorai, Moran, “Judicial independence as a main feature in judicial ethics” (2010), (Hebrew) http://www.mishpat.ac.il/files/650/3168/3185/3186.pdf

To what extent does the process of appointing (supreme or constitutional court) justices guarantee the independence of the judiciary?

10
 9

Justices are appointed in a cooperative appointment process with special majority requirements.
 8
 7
 6


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies with special majority requirements or in a cooperative selection process without special majority requirements.
 5
 4
 3


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies without special majority requirements.
 2
 1

All judges are appointed exclusively by a single body irrespective of other institutions.
Appointment of Justices
9
According to Israel’s basic laws, all judges are to be appointed by the president after having been elected by a special committee. This committee consists of nine members, including the president of the Supreme Court, two other Supreme Court judges, the Minister of Justice (who also serves as the chairman) and another government-designated minister, two Knesset members, and two representatives of the Chamber of Advocates that have been elected by the National Council of the Chamber. The Ministry of Justice recently approved the participation of a Bar Association representative in the more advanced judicial-nomination process.

The cooperative procedure balances various interests and institutions within the government in order to insure pluralism and protect the legitimacy of appointments. The process receives considerable media coverage and is subjected to public criticism, which is usually concerned with whether justices’ professional record or other considerations (social views, loyalties and political affiliation) should figure into their appointment.

The spirit of judicial independence is also evident in the procedure for nominating judges and in the establishment of the Ombudsman on the Israeli judiciary. This latter was created in 2003, with the aim of addressing issues of accountability inside the judicial system. It is an independent institution that investigates public complaints or special requests for review from the president of the Supreme Court or the secretary of justice. The Ombudsman issues an annual report of its work, investigations and findings from all judicial levels, including the rabbinic courts.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked recently unveiled a campaign to change the current seniority system, in which the most veteran Supreme Court justice is automatically selected as court president upon the previous officeholder’s retirement. In a discussion in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Shaked asserted that the seniority system diminished the authority of the Judicial Selection Committee. Arguing in opposition was former Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, who said, “Politicizing the Supreme Court will undermine its independence, the separation of powers, and the ability of the court to protect civil rights in Israel.” Naor added that “the point that must concern all of us is how the rulings of Supreme Court justices will be perceived by the public if the justices are in a race for the president’s post.” Eventually, the effort to change the seniority system proved unsuccessful.

Citations:
Gueta, Yasmin and Efrat Newman, “Like the ‘Big Brother’: The Procedure to Judge Nomination,” The Marker, 15.2.2016: http://www.themarker.com/law/1.2851297

Hovel, Revital. “Minister, Chief Justice Agree on Israel’s Next Supreme Court President,” Haaretz, 10.7.2017: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.800449

Rubinstein, Amnon, “The constitutional law of the state of Israel,” Shoken, 2005.

Shoken, 2005.“The Ombudsman on judges office: Annual report 2011,” 2012. (Hebrew) http://index.justice.gov.il/Units/NezivutShoftim/pirsomeyhanaziv/Doch/Documents/2012.pdf

“The Ombudsman of judges office: Annual report 2013,” Jerusalem 2014 (Hebrew), http://index.justice.gov.il/Units/NezivutShoftim/MainDocs/Report2013.pdf.

To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

10
 9

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 8
 7
 6


Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
 5
 4
 3


Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 2
 1

Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Corruption Prevention
6
A survey of the Israeli legal framework identifies three primary channels of a corruption-prevention strategy: 1) maintaining popular trust in public management (including bank managers and large public-oriented corporations’ owners), 2) ensuring the proper conduct of public servants and 3) ensuring accountability within the civil service. Israel pursues these goals by various means: It established a legal and ethical framework to guide civil servants and the courts, reinforced the position of the State Comptroller through the passage of a basic law (1988) in order insure government accountability, adapted the civil service commission’s authority to manage human resources (e.g., appointments, salaries) and so forth. In 2005, Israel was one of 140 states to sign a national anti-corruption treaty and began implementing it in 2009, issuing annual progress reports.

Annual opinion surveys demonstrate that Israeli citizens are concerned about high levels of corruption in their country. Criticism of Israel’s centralized public-service structure have been mounting, in part because it is characterized by several very powerful ministries with broad ability to engage in discretionary spending. These powers detract from accountability, leaving room for corruption.

Criminal inquiries into politicians are common. Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was tried for fraud, money laundering and breach of trust, though ultimately acquitted. Former Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, a member of the Yisrael Beytenu party, was sentenced to a 15-month sentence for fraud and breach of trust. In addition, former Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum and nine other officials linked to Yisrael Beytenu were indicted for a litany of corruption charges, including bribery, fraud and money laundering.

In 2014 the courts issued an historical ruling sentencing former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to six years in prison for accepting bribes while serving as mayor of Jerusalem. Recently, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been suspected of involvement in several corruption affairs (the “submarine affair,” the “expensive gifts affair,” and an alleged attempt to negotiate sympathetic coverage in the Yediot Aharonot newspaper in return for support for legislation that would weaken Yediot competitor Israel Hayom).

According to Meni Yitzhaki, who heads the Israel Police’s fraud investigations task force, Israel does not suffer from widespread corruption, but rather features “islands of corruption.” Yitzhaki stated that the Israeli police address corruption as they would any criminal organization.

Citations:
Aliasuf, Itzak, “Ethics of public servants in Israel,” 1991 (Hebrew) http://mishkenot.org

Ariel, Omri, New poll shows 72% view Israel as a corrupt country, 08.01.2016, http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/in-israel/local/poll-72-see-israel-as-corrupt-18361

“Corruption investigation explores bribe attempts from Netanyahu,” The Jerusalem Post, 9.9.2016, http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Benjamin-Netanyahu/Corruption-investigation-explores-bribe-attempts-from-Netanyahu-467347

“85% of Israelis think corruption is widespread in business,” The Times of Israel, 12.5.2012. http://www.timesofisrael.com/85-of-israelis-think-corruption-widespread-in-business/

”Massive scope of Yisrael Beiteinu corruption scandal revealed,” Ynet 25.12.2014: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4607728,00.html

Ma’anit, Chen, Former tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov signs plea bargain, Globes, 31.10.2017: http://www.globes.co.il/en/article-former-tourism-minister-stas-misezhnikov-signs-plea-bargain-1001209817

Shahm, Udi “Former Netanyahu Aide to Provide Information in ‘Submarine Case,” Jpost, 3.8.2017 http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Benjamin-Netanyahu/Former-Netanyahu-aide-to-provide-information-in-Submarine-Case-501476

Shahar Levi, Zohar, “The head of the Israel Police fraud investigations task force: We have number corruption affairs in line,” Calcalist 19.5.2015: http://www.calcalist.co.il/local/articles/0,7340,L-3659694,00.html (Hebrew).

Transparency International: Corruption Perception Index 2016. http://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2016
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