Economic Affairs Committee Chairman, Knesset Member Carmel Shama Hacohen (Likud) spoke in reaction to the words of Baruch Oren, representative for the Association of Progressive Democracy, at the beginning of a Committee discussion on consumer protection regulations. Oren used the opening of the discussion to ask the chairman why he allows paid lobbyists into the Committee discussion, and requested to hear his opinion.
Shama Hacohen replied, ”Economic Affiars Committee meetings are transparent, open to the public, and even broadcasted live on the Committee`s internet portal. Everything is open, and I have never felt that a lobbyist managed to steer my stance. As MKs we have the right of speech and vote, and as committee chairman I have other rights, and a test of the results teaches that in every argument, the public interest wins. With this, it is impossible to tell a particular side that it cannot voice its opinion.
”As long as MKs are honest and wise enough, there is no significant influence from lobbyists,” added Shama Hacohen. ”While research spotlights a specific case that occurred in the past, after consulting with the Committee Director, Leah Varon, and MKs I decided not to take lobbyists out of the discussions. The decision is not simple or populist, and I do not want to destroy lobbyists` livelihood—but here in the Committee they are entirely observers without enough strength to change things. There are no votes that they can prevent or change.”
Shama Hacohen even pointed out that the Committee just now discussed amendments to waiting-time restrictions on human response in call centers for the various businesses in the market. The Committee will also discuss his suggestion to cancel fines for leaving cellular companies. These two suggestions, he said, and the many others which the Committee has discussed, were accepted though many large companies on the market did not like them. ”Everything in the Knesset is transparent,” said the Chairman, ”and I am not sure that if the lobbyists left the Committee meetings we would know what is happening outside the Knesset.”
Shama-Hachohen added that after receiving requests from several MKs regarding the lobbyists, he turned to Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin to create clear and complete guidelines on the matter.
MK Eitan Cabel (Labor), who was present in the discussion, added: ”We have a short memory and must remember what occurred during the period of the major parties. At the end of the day, the problem must be found with the MKs. We are supposed to serve the public and be their lobbyists—and if we don`t do our job faithfully there is election day, primaries or general elections, when we are supposed to be tested.”