Israel

   

Quality of Democracy

#31
Key Findings
With ongoing tension over its treatment of Palestinians, Israel scores relatively poorly (rank 31) 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. Critics argue that a new law diminishing state funding for joint party lists was designed to break up an Arab party group.

Israeli Arabs’ underrepresentation in the broadcast media and in public-opinion surveys has gained new attention. The prime minister was investigated for offering to trade regulatory favors for positive media coverage. Laws and legal proposals infringing on basic democratic principles 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 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu currently under criminal indictment.

Electoral Processes

#27

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, constitutes a general, free, equal, discrete, direct and proportional elections, to be held every four years. The Basic Law promises an 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 of over a three-month period in the seven years prior to his/her nomination (unless authorized by the head of the central elections committee). If the nominee held a prominent public office (as specified in the written law) he or she must wait until the expiration of the cooling period. 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 clauses: if they reject Israel’s Jewish and democratic identity, if they support another country’s armed battle against Israel and/or supports a terror organization, or if they incite racism.

Due to its significant weight in the electoral process, the committee is chaired by a High Court of Justice 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 High Court of Justice. In the September 2019 elections, the committee disqualified the nomination of candidate Ofer Cassif (“Hadash”). The decision was reversed by the High Court of Justice. However, at the same time, the court barred the candidacy of another candidate, Michael Ben-Ari, from running in the elections. The banning of Ben-Ari, the leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, marked the first time in Israel’s history that a candidate approved by the committee was banned from standing in an election.

The 2016 Suspension Law allows for the suspension of a Knesset member if a supermajority of the Knesset vote that the individual has deviated from the behavior expected of a member of the Knesset. The law drew much criticism, mostly from opposition members, but also from some members of the coalition. Most of the criticism revolved around the claim that the Knesset lacks the authority to suspend a member and that this authority should be given to the court. In addition, some raised concerns that the vote to suspend a member will be mostly influenced by political considerations and “will severely weaken Israel’s democratic character.” However, the law has never used against any member of the Knesset.

Citations:
Azolai, Moran. “The Suspension Law was approved in the Knesset,” 29.03.16, 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,” 26.10.17, Arutz Sheva: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/237241

Hobal, Ravital, “The majority of the judges rejected the petition regarding the election threshold,” 14.1.15, Haaraz (Hebrew): http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/elections/.premium-1.2538960

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


Norris, P., Wynter, T and Cameron, S. (2018). “Corruption and Coercion: The Year in Elections 2017,” The Electoral Integrity Project, https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/the-year-in-elections-2017


Shamir, Michal and Margal, Keren (2009). “Notions on threat and disqualification of lists and nominees for the Knesset: from Yardur to the 2003 election, Mishpat & Mimshal 8, pp. 119-154 (Hebrew).

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

Staff, ToI. “High Court Bars Far-right Party Leader Ben Ari From Running In Elections,” 17.3.2019, The Times of Israel:
https://www.timesofisrael.com/high-court-bars-far-right-party-leader-ben-ari-from-elections/

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 Israeli democracy is its free press and media. As part of this foundation, laws have been passed to ensure equal media access for all candidates and parties. Moreover, the criteria for allocating airtime during election campaigns is impartial: it is not subjected to any kind of arbitrary considerations or determined by the chairman of the Central Elections Committee.

More specifically, under the Election Law (Propaganda Means), it is stated that the chairman of the Central Elections Committee determines the television and radio broadcasting time provided to each list of candidates. On radio, each list is entitled to 15 minutes plus a further four minutes for every member of the departing Knesset. On TV, each list is entitled to seven minutes plus a further two minutes for every member of the departing Knesset. All propaganda broadcasts must be at the parties’ own expense and must be approved in advance by the Chairman of the Central Elections Committee.

While election broadcasting rights are fair and balanced, achieving equal media representation is a routine challenge. Most notably, minorities often remain under-represented. For example, Arab Israeli interviewees are under-represented in broadcasts by Hebrew media outlets. 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 –Arab Israelis accounted for 2.7% of appearances on Israeli television and radio shows in the first half of 2019. Media coverage of the Joint List, its representatives to the Knesset and Arab Israeli candidates from other party lists was also relatively low during the two elections held in 2019. However, Arab Israelis as a percentage of all speakers in election bulletins increased significantly from 4.5% prior to the April 2019 elections to 7.5% by the September 2019 elections.

In recent years, the number of Jewish-only public opinion surveys has decreased, following criticism waged by the Seventh Eye media watchdog and changes made to the Israel Press Council’s ethical rules. While those surveys sometimes presented as representing the Israeli public opinion, the fact that they exclude Arab Israeli citizens is usually not mentioned.

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, “An increase in the number of Arab speakers in election bulletin,” The Seventh Eye, 26.9.2019 (Hebrew):
https://www.the7eye.org.il/346075

Persiko, Oren, “On the way down,” The Seventh Eye, 20.8.2019 (Hebrew): https://www.the7eye.org.il/341556

Persiko, Oren, “Mid-2019: 2.7% representation of Arab society, which constitutes about 20% of the population,” The Seventh Eye, 17.7.2019 (Hebrew):
https://www.the7eye.org.il/336325

Persisko, Oren, “The right thing,” The Seventh Eye, 1.11.2019 (Hebrew): https://www.the7eye.org.il/349660

Shwartz-Altshuler and Lurie, Guy, “Redesign the Israeli Election Propaganda Arrangements“, Israel democracy institute website 6.4.2015: https://bit.ly/2ziXcKa (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”

Zarchia, Z. “The Constitution Committee has approved to introduce a bill suggesting to cancel the prohibit on election propaganda two months before elections” 11.07.18, Calcalist: https://www.calcalist.co.il/local/articles/0,7340,L-3742130,00.html

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
In Israel, the right to vote is almost comprehensive, with very few restrictions.
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 restrained by the need to exhibit valid government identifications with the voter’s name and picture. If the voter refused to take an ID photo (as in the case of some religious women), the ID will be considered valid if it received authorization from the Ministry of the Interior. Article 10 of the Basic Law states that the day of the national elections is a national holiday, with public transportation and public services open, thus giving voters a positive (or, at least, not a negative) incentive to vote.

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 special voting stations that are adequately equipped, thus simplifying their voting process by using double envelopes. The state is obligated to offer at least one such station in every city council, and at least two in a city council 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 in 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 by any specific law.

There are informal restrictions on voting, which reduce the ability of citizens belonging to certain groups to actually exercise the right to vote. In contrast to some countries, Israel does not allow citizens that are out of the country (the territories excluded) at the time of the elections to vote unless they are members of a distinct status, eligible 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 centers, and be accessed through the media, online and by telephone. Problems and complaints are dealt through the Central Elections Committee, each branch assigned with different level complaints.

Citations:
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



“Basic Laws: The Knesset,” Knesset official website: www.knesset.gov.il/description/eng/ eng-mimshal_yesod1.htm

Blander, Dana, and Avital Friedman. “Who will not be able to vote on Election Day?,” Israel Democracy Institute, 31.3.2019 (Hebrew): https://www.idi.org.il/articles/26341

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)


Central Election Committee: Elections for the 21. Knesset, 9. April 2019: https://bechirot21.bechirot.gov.il/election/Pages/HomePage.aspx (Hebrew)

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 two laws state that: party membership dues and fund raising from members remain within the limits allowed by the Party Financing Law; and party income can only come from five sources. These sources are: party membership dues and fund raising appeals among members, within limits allowed by the Parties Financing Law; funds received from the state in accordance with the Political Parties (financing) Law; non-public contributions received in accordance with the Political Parties (financing) Law; funds received for the purpose of elections in the New Histadrut trade union association, as approved by the New Histadrut; and 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, all financial activities during elections are subjected to the supervision of 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, it is the State Comptroller who can also rule that a party group must return funds to the state because of divergences in the receipt of non-public contributions.

In 2018, an amendment to the party financing law was passed, limiting the funding that joint parties receive from the state budget. According to the law, joint lists of three or four parties would be given the funding of only two parties. As the only faction with more than two parties is the Joint List, which is an alliance of four Arab parties, it was argued that the law was directly intended to break up the Joint List. A year before, another amendment of the party financing law, known as the V15 bill, aimed at limiting the activities of various non-party-political bodies that seek 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 organization that was funded by organizations from the United States and Europe, and which funded efforts during the 2015 election campaign against the Likud party and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Citations:
Amendment to the Party Financing Law, 2018: https://fs.knesset.gov.il//20/law/20_ls2_501466.pdf
Hattis Rolef, Susan, Ben Meir, Liat and Zwebner, Sarah, “Party financing and elections financing in Israel, Knesset Research Institute, 21.7.2003 (Hebrew).

Klein, Z. “The State Comptroller: A fine to The Likus and the Bayit Yehudi,” Israel Hayom: 15.10.2018: https://www.israelhayom.co.il/article/599301

“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

Shapira, Asaf. “This is how elections are funded in Israel,” Israel Democracy Institute, 19.7.2019 (Hebrew):
https://www.idi.org.il/articles/25939

The State Comptroller. “The functions and powers of the State Comptroller”: https://www.mevaker.gov.il/En/About/Pages/MevakerTafkid.aspx

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
 4
 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 Basic Law: Referendum. This law will apply in the event of an agreement or unilateral decision that involves withdrawal from certain geographical areas. The law has never been applied and the use of referendums 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 national interest investigation committees, or (2) special legal provisions allowing citizens to appeal against decisions on certain issues (e.g., urban planning) or addressing parliament committees on issues that directly concern them. These sorts of initiatives, while important, align with a top-down strategy for civil participation instead of encouraging independent initiatives.

These initiatives, however, remained largely in early stages, and we were 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
 4
 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, and the media is able to criticize the government. 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, soundly assimilating this principle in the Israeli political culture.

However, in recent years, Israeli media has been downgraded to partially free by Freedom House. Furthermore, the 2019 Reporters without Borders report stated that Israeli media is free but constrained by military censorship, with Israel ranked 88 out of 180 countries. When examining the extent to which the media in Israel is independent, one should also notice the immense power for censorship that the law facilitates. 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, the censor’s role is quite limited, and journalists often evade restrictions by leaking a story to a foreign outlet and then republishing.

Recent affairs also seem to call into question several important aspects of media independence. For example, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was investigated following allegations that his staff offered regulatory favors to the telecommunication company Bezeq in return for positive coverage by Walla, an Israeli web portal. As mentioned in Freedom House’s Freedom and the Media 2019: A Downward Spiral report (p.3), “although Netanyahu has resisted efforts to formally indict and try him on these charges, the evidence suggests that the prime minister was willing to sacrifice press freedom in order to maintain political power.” In light of the investigations, Netanyahu was forced to resign his position as communications minister.

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

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

Freedom House. “Freedom and the Media 2019: A Downward Spiral” (June 2019): https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FINAL07162019_Freedom_And_The_Media_2019_Report.pdf

Freedom House. “Israel” (2019): https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/israel

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

“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)

Persico, 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

Reporters without Borders. “Israel,” 2019: https://rsf.org/en/barometer,
https://rsf.org/en/israel

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

In practice, media regulation in Israel is largely structural, controlling ownership of media outlets (radio, and public and private cable and satellite television). The regulators authorize concessionaires and enforce regulation in matters of ownership concentration, cross-ownership and foreign ownership. However, print media is not under the same restraints as broadcast media, and is regulated by antitrust legislation and voluntary self-regulation. Most news websites in Israel are operated by print media companies. There are ongoing efforts to expand regulation to the digital sphere, but no change has been legislated by parliament as of yet.

In recent years, ideological and financial centralism has increased, while the government has attempted to improve regulation of and competition in the communications market. 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. Israel Hayom quickly gained power, capturing 40% of the market, raising concerns due to its partisan coverage and its negative effect on competing commercial newspapers.

In November 2017, after almost 25 years on the air, Channel 2’s two broadcasters (Keshet and Reshet) split and began airing on separate channels (channels 12 and 13 respectively), while Channel 10 moved to channel 14. Since the split took effect last year, all three commercial stations (Keshet, Reshet and Channel 10) sustained losses of millions and sometimes tens of millions of shekels per month, which will amount to more than ILS 200 million over the year. In 2018, the Israeli Antitrust Commissioner approved the Rehest-Channel 10 merger. The commissioner stated that the merger would not significantly undermine competition in the media market.

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)

Boker, Ran. “Channel Ten will be closed: The merger of Reshet and Channel Ten was approved,” 8.8.2018 (Hebrew): https://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-5324863,00.html

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

Media Ownership Map, The Seventh Eye website: https://cdn.the7eye.org.il/uploads/2016/03/the-7th-eye-israel-media-ownership-map72018.pdf

Halon, E, “Reshet pulls out of a slated merger with Channel Ten,” 15.10.2018, Jerusalem Post: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Reshet-pulls-out-of-slated-merger-with-Channel-Ten-569464


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

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 adopted the Freedom of Information Law in 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. Naturally, the right to freedom of information is not absolute, with reasonable restrictions on the basis of national security or privacy issues.

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 n charged with implementing OECD guidelines for managing and sharing information. As part of its mandate, the unit publishes a yearly progress report. According to the unit, 10,736 applications were received in 2018, almost 3,000 more applications than in 2016.

In 2018, the Freedom of Information Unit under the Ministry of Justice launched a digital system for managing freedom of information requests in government ministries. The unit introduced a new procedure to increase the transparency of public committees and launched a new campaign to increase public awareness of “Kol Zchut,” a comprehensive database that provides information on the rights of Israeli residents and how to exercise these rights. The unit also managed to secure an agreement for the implementation of the Freedom of Information Law (1998) by public municipalities. In 2019, the unit announced that it would develop an index to assess the transparency of public bodies, upgrade the unit’s website and reduce the time it takes to handle pubic complaints.

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)

“Annual Report of the unit for freedom of information: 2018,” The Ministry of Justice website: https://www.gov.il/BlobFolder/reports/annual_reports/he/annual%20report%202018%20foiu.pdf

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

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

Government ICT Authority: Open Government Action Plan for 2018-2019, http://yoursay.gov.il/cio/File/Index/nap3english/

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#37

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: Human Dignity and Liberty, which protects the right of each citizen to privacy, property, dignity, life and so forth. This basic law is meant to carry the spirit of the law and is procedurally protected from nullification. However, provisions from the law can be overruled under specific urgencies stated by the government and the courts. Much of the work of protecting civil rights in Israel is done through judicial review, which operates independently from the legislator and the executive branches. Civil rights claims are voiced through the media, NGO activities, appeals to the Supreme Court, legislative amendments and appeals to government bodies that investigate public complaints.

Yet, there is a gap between the formal guarantees of equal civil rights and the reality of unequal opportunities. Such a gap exists mainly when there is a conflict between civil rights and other core social values (e.g., religious identity, security, and communal rights). According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the government and members of parliament have extensively promoted initiatives that infringe on basic democratic principles, such as minority rights, freedom of speech and the activity of civil society organizations. In particular, the ACRI has expressed concern about the central role played by the Knesset in these initiatives. While not all legislative proposals were adopted, those that were have influenced public discourse on and attitudes toward democracy, human rights, minority groups and the rule of law, among other things.
The ACRI published a list of 20 proposals for the new Knesset, which address problems in securing basic civil rights. The proposals include policies that aim to narrow socioeconomic gaps, ensure equal enforcement of the law, protect disadvantaged communities and promote social justice, as well as a commitment to the rights of citizens and democratic values.

Furthermore, the enactment of The Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People in 2018 provoked protests from Jewish, Druze and Arab communities, who criticized the law for failing to ensure equality for all Israeli citizens. The law, it was argued, discriminates against minorities and especially the Arab Israeli minority, since it downgraded the Arab language from its former position as an official state language.

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

Dahan, Tal, “Situation report: The state of human rights in Israel and the OPT 2017,” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), https://campaigns.acri.org.il/report2017en/

Hermann, Tamar et.al., The Israel Democracy Index 2018, The Israel Democracy Institute, Jerusalem 2018, https://en.idi.org.il/media/12170/the-israeli-democracy-index-2018.pdf

Morag, G. and Friedson Y. “Shaked unveils criminal justice system reform bill,” Ynet, 28/05/2018: https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5273104,00.html

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel. “2018 – A bad year for democracy Human Rights in Israel – A Second Snapshot,” October 2018 (Hebrew):
https://a59952db-05ff-468c-a8f0-411f44dfbc9c.filesusr.com/ugd/01368b_4dffc38e27124eea80154d408b5badf3.pdf

ACRI: Israel 2020: 20 Proposals for the New Knesseth, December 2019, https://0aadc55a-bbc6-4bf3-bd01-242c802789e7.usrfiles.com/ugd/0aadc5_5bab9d0d551b4dc789f913b2ecdcf7c4.pdf

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 confided to status of basic laws. Thus, they are not constitutional as such. For these and other reasons, the responsibility to protect political liberties still lies with the Israeli parliament. However, parliamentary activity has not been conducive to this task. In the last few years, many pieces of legislation and proposed legislation appear to undermine aspects of democracy and due process.

For example, the Disclosure Requirements for Organizations Funded by Foreign Political Entities Law, legislated in 2016, requires NGOs that receive more than half of their income from foreign governments to submit an annual report to the registrar of non-profit associations in the Ministry of Justice. This law was criticized for applying almost exclusively to human rights and left-wing organizations. As the Ministry of Justice reported, there are only 27 organizations in Israel that get more than half their funding from foreign governments. Of these, 25 are human rights organizations identified with the left.

Other problematic legislation prohibited people who have supported a boycott of the state of Israel from entering Israel. In September 2018, authorities denied Lara Alqasem entrance to Israel, because she was accused of being a BDS supporter. Eventually, after pressure from the Hebrew University at which Alqasem had intended to study, the High Court struck down the state’s decision. However, many problematic proposals did not win 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

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 2019,” Freedomhouse website: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2019

“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)

“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

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

Gild-Hayo, Debbie, “Antidemocratic Legislation: Ramifications for Human Rights and the Work of NGO,” ACRI, May 26, 2019, https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/0aadc5_0c8b24f620e24b2eaa25249135148d47.pdf

Asseburg, Muriel, “Shrinking Spaces in Israel,” SWP Comments, September 2017, https://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/comments/2017C36_ass.pdf

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 addresses cases of discrimination against women and minorities in professional, public and state spheres. Israel 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 to join existing legislation protecting human dignity and liberty did not yield results. Instead, the struggle against discrimination is usually fought through Israel’s media and by vigorous NGO activity.

Progress was achieved in recent years regarding women’s and gay rights. The government addressed the expanding industry of human trafficking and prostitution by opening designated shelters for victims and legislating (2006) prison terms of up to 20 years for perpetrators. The gay community also marked prominent victories: non-biological same-sex parents have been made eligible for guardianship rights and same-sex marriages conducted in foreign countries are recognized by the state, with the first gay divorce granted in 2012. However, in 2018 the Surrogate Law was passed, which expands eligibility for state-supported surrogacy to include single women but excludes single men and gay couples from funded surrogacy services (see also G6.2a section).

Nonetheless, discrimination is prevalent and systematic regarding Palestinians’ rights. 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.

A 2003 law denies citizenship and 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.

However, there have been some advances in the field of discrimination. For example, regarding protecting the rights of disabled persons, Israel is introduced substantial measures. The Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities has stated that the gap between the general employed population and the disabled employed population is constantly closing, and the rate of disabled employment is rising (a rise of 23% in 2017). The commission’s work is based on the Equal Rights Law for Persons with Disabilities (1998) that sets a goal for 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.” In addition, the Ministry for Social Equality, launched in 2015, is dedicated to reducing discrimination against and advancing equality for minorities, women, and older and younger citizens.

Citations:
Association for Civil Rights in Israel, http://www.acri.org.il/campaigns/report2016en/

Gild-Hayo, Debbie, Overview of Anti-Democratic Legislation Advanced by the 20th Knesset, October 2018: https://law.acri.org.il/en/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Overview-of-Anti-Democratic-Legislation-October-2018.pdf

Heruti-Sover, Tali. “Gender Wage Gap in Israel Among Highest in the West,” 11/10/2017: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/business/gender-wage-gap-in-israel-among-highest-in-the-west-1.5457004

Heruti-Sover, Tali. “Report Finds Wide but Varying Pay Gaps by Gender, Religion and Background,” 19/2/2019, Haaretz: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/business/report-finds-wide-but-varying-pay-gaps-by-gender-religion-and-background-1.6953271

Mako editiorial “The Surrogacy Storm: General Strike and Rage March of the LGTB Community,” 18/7/18, MAKO: https://www.mako.co.il/pride-news/local/Article-530a21c9e6da461006.htm

Sober, Tali Heruty “A rise of 23% in the employment of disabled,” The Marker, 29/11/17: https://www.themarker.com/career/1.4647745

Swirsky, S., E. Konor-Atias, “Social status report 2017,” January 2018. (Hebrew)
http://adva.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Social-Report-2017.pdf

Tzameret-Kertcher, Hagar, Naomi Chazan, Hanna Herzog, Yulia Basin, Ronna Brayer-Garb and Hadass Ben Eliyahu. “The Gender Index, Gender Inequality in Israel 2018,” The Van-Leer Jerusalem Institute, https://genderindex.vanleer.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Gender-Index-2018.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

Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples – Israel: Ethiopian Jews, August 2018, https://www.refworld.org/docid/5ba34c097.html

Rule of Law

#22

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
6
Several institutions in Israel are responsible for reviewing the activities of the government and public administration. The State Comptroller, the attorney general 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 2018, the High Court struck down the state’s decision to refuse Lara Alqasem, a BDS supporter, entrance into Israel. However, the Israeli Supreme Court has struck down only 18 laws since 1992, a relatively low number compared to other countries.

Some legal arrangements provide for ad hoc state action to deal with security threats. The Emergency Powers (Detention) Law of 1979 provides for indefinite administrative detention without trial. According to a human rights group, at the end of August 2018, there were 465 Palestinians incarcerated under such charges. 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.

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 a new law or draft all Haredim,” JPost, 12/9/17, http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Court-orders-govt-to-pass-new-law-or-draft-all-haredim-504901

The Israel Democracy Institute. “Q&A on the Override Clause,” 17.5.2018: https://en.idi.org.il/articles/23521

“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

Luria, G “How many Laws are dismissed in the world?” IDI, 22.4.18: https://www.idi.org.il/articles/23326

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

Transparency International, “Israel releases first ever National Integrity System report on Israel’s government, institutions,” 11.11.2014: https://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/tlisrael_releases_first_ever_national_integrity_system_report_on_israels_go

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
8
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 recent years, public trust in the judicial system has sharply declined.

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.

Despite that, the current minister of justice, Amir Ohana, and the former minister of justice, Ayelet Shaked, have proposed substantial reforms of the judicial branch and especially the Supreme Court. These reforms are intended to weaken its powers of oversight over the political system.

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).

Bob, Yonah Jeremy “Ayelet Shaked To ‘Post’: High Court More Conservative Than Four Years Ago,” 28/10/18, JPOST, https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Ayelet-Shaked-High-court-more-conservative-than-four-years-ago-570354

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).

Plesner, Yohanan. “The Knesset and the Court: Is This Israel’s Override Election?,” The Israel Democracy Institute, 16.9.2019: en.idi.org.il/articles/28629

Svorai, Moran, “Judicial independence as the 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
8
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. Since the law was amended in 2008, it was held that in order to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court, the nominated candidate should have the support of a majority of seven committee members. This amendment has since further intensified struggles between committee members.

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

Since the establishment of the Judicial Selection Committee in 1953, various initiatives have sought to change it. In 2019, the former minister of justice, Ayelet Shaked, presented a proposal to change the committee. According to her proposal, a justice of the Supreme Court will be nominated by the government and approved by the Knesset following a public hearing, similar to the U.S. system for choosing justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. This proposal aims to reduce the Supreme Court’s judicial activism. Elected officials – including some ministers, such as Ayelet Shaked – have sought to appoint judges with a conservative judicial view who, they hope, would be less activist. In her term, however, Shaked pushed for the appointment of conservative judges. Her success on these grounds was attributed to her partnership with the former head of the Israeli Bar Association, Efi Naveh. In 2019, he was arrested under a sex-for-judgeship scandal, according to which he tried to appoint and promote judges in return for sexual favors.

The spirit of judicial independence is also evident in the procedure for nominating judges and in the establishment of an ombudsman for the 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 and special requests for review from the president of the Supreme Court or the secretary of justice. The Ombudsman issues an annual report detailing its work, investigations and findings from all judicial levels, including the rabbinic courts.

Citations:
Bob, Yonah Jeremy. “Will Nave replacement end Shaked’s judicial revolution? - analysis.” The Jerusalem Post, 12.6.2019: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Will-new-lawyers-president-end-Shakeds-judicial-revolution-Analysis-592167

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

Jerusalem Post Staff, Yonah Jeremy Bob. “Efi Nave, Head of Israeli bar, arrested in sex-for-judgeship scandal.” The Jerusalem Post, 16.1.2019: https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Senior-lawyer-arrested-on-suspicion-of-illegal-appointment-of-judges-577580

Lurie, Guy. “The Judicial Selection Committee.” Jerusalem: Israel Democracy Institute, 2019.

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. These include maintaining popular trust in public management, including trust in bank managers and owners of large public-oriented corporations; ensuring the proper conduct of public servants; and 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 to ensure 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.

Criminal inquiries into politicians are common. In November 2019, Israel’s attorney general charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. It is the first time in Israel’s history that a serving prime minister has faced a criminal indictment. Earlier in 2019, the attorney general indicted the minister for welfare and social services, Haim Katz, for fraud and breach of trust. Also in 2019, Israel’s state attorney recommended to the attorney general that the minister of the interior, Aryeh Deri, be indicted for tax crimes, fraud and money laundering. These recent cases join an extensive list of past corruption cases. In 2014, the courts issued an historic ruling, sentencing former prime minister Ehud Olmert to six years in prison for accepting bribes while serving as mayor of Jerusalem. Former tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov, of the Yisrael Beytenu party, was also sentenced to 15 months in prison for fraud and breach of trust.

Citations:
Aliasuf, Itzak, “Ethics of public servants in Israel,” 1991 (Hebrew) https://bit.ly/3dNefmG

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

Bob, Yonah Jeremy. “AG moves to indict Haim Katz for fraud; Drops IAI charges,” The Jerusalem Post, 15.8.2019: https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Mandelblit-Haim-Katz-will-be-indicted-for-breach-of-trust-598601

Bob, Yonah Jeremy. “State Attorney to Attorney General: Indict Arye Deri,” The Jerusalem Post, 15.8.2019:
https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/State-Attorney-to-Attorny-General-Indict-Deri-598752

Holmes, Oliver. “Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu indicted for bribery and fraud.” The Guardian, 21.11.2019: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/21/israeli-prime-minister-benjamin-netanyahu-indicted-for-bribery-and

”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

Transparency International: Corruption Perceptions Index 2018: http://www.ti-israel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/CPI-2018-Executive-summary-PRINT.pdf

Transparency International, Corruption Perception Index 2019, 2020, https://www.transparency.org/cpi2019
Wootliff, Raoul, and ToI, “Liberman opposes forming Knesset committee just to reject Netanyahu immunity,” ToI, 26.11.2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/liberman-opposes-forming-knesset-committee-just-to-reject-netanyahu-immunity/
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