THE PREVENTION OF CRIME AND THE TREATMENT OF OFFENDERS IN ISRAEL: 1995 REPORT

The MOVEMENT FOR QUALITY GOVERNMENT IN ISRAEL

Shraga Eliad,
Chairman,
The Movement for Quality Government

Goals

The Movement’s cardinal goal is to upgrade the ethics of government and improve the quality of service given by elected representatives and public officials. It advocates comprehensive rather than piecemeal reform, including the legislation of a national constitution and a change in the method of electing Members of Knesset and the Prime Minister.

Background to the Founding of the Movement

The Movement was founded during the wave of protest that swept the country in 1990 at the way coalition negotiations were being conducted to form a new government. Millions of shekels from "discretionary funds" were being offered to private interest groups and defectors were wooed from one camp to the other with material incentives and political favors. In April 1992, the Movement opened an office in Jerusalem to handle all its activities.

Activities and Methods

The Movement has chosen to work for reform and betterment on two fronts the structure of the political system and standards of political behavior.

Structure of the Political System

On this front, the organization lobbies and conducts protests to promote the passage of new statutes and regulations.

The Movement has been invited to take part in sessions of the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee when issues of electoral reform, the direct election of the Prime Minister and the legitimacy of judicial review by the Supreme Court were on the agenda, and in sessions of the Finance Committee when the Party Financing Law was being discussed. Protest action has included participation in demonstrations:

– on behalf of reform of the political system;
– against the establishment of new, unnecessary and wasteful ministries as part of a coalition agreement;
– to pressure the Knesset into removing the parliamentary immunity of two Knesset Members so that they could stand trial for, among other things, bribe taking.

Standards of Political Behavior

In this sphere the Movement uses three tactics deterrence, exposure and education.

Deterrence: The Movement has come to the conclusion that using all legal means to prosecute corruption can both help set higher standards of conduct and deter further such acts. It files complaints with the courts, especially petitions to the Supreme Court, sitting as a High Court of Justice, and it submits complaints to the INP, the State Comptroller and quasi-judicial investigative bodies. The Movement notes with pride that these measures have led to a number of ground-breaking court decisions that have laid down higher standards of practice in party financing, in the contents of political coalition agreements and in the ramifications of criminal activity by elected representatives.

Exposure: the Movement encourages everyone with knowledge of instances of government corruption to come forward. It has set up the first "hot line" for this purpose, to which the response has been overwhelming. Hundreds of complaints have come in, approximately half of them pertinent to the organization’s cause. Handling of some of the complaints begins and ends with a letter to the appropriate official of the Civil Service Commission, the State Comptroller’s Office, the Office of the Attorney-General, the INP, government ministries, local authorities, religious councils, Knesset committees, etc. Other cases demand continued attention and follow-up. It is estimated that about half of the reported complaints could warrant petitions to the Supreme Court.

Education: Educational activity is a more long-term investment. So far, we have concentrated on organizing seminars, lectures and discussion panels for adults. We also publish a newsletter for members designed to create dialogue between central office and members across the country.

Recently, however, we have begun to work with educational institutions and the Ministry of Education to develop programs for youth on the subject of the quality of government.

Finally, it is necessary to emphasize the role of the mass media. The Press fulfills a critical role in uncovering instances of government impropriety and the interaction between it and the Movement is of cardinal importance. Justice Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court once said that, "Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant."

Funding

Funding comes entirely from donations from supporters and from membership dues: no political or government subventions are accepted.

The largest donor is the New Israel Fund, which has been the mainstay of the Movement’s office in Jerusalem.