Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Adar II 5765 - April 6, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Betzedek Files Suit Against Shinui Slush Fund

By Betzalel Kahn

Betzedek filed a High Court petition on Sunday 23 Adar II against the agreement Prime Minister Ariel Sharon signed with Shinui for its support of the state budget in exchange for NIS 700 million in funding. The petition was filed against the Prime Minister, Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the government, the Knesset and Shinui.

In the petition, Betzedek Director Rabbi Mordechai Green asks the court to cancel the agreement, charging that the deal contains legal flaws, blatantly violates the Government Foundation Law, is unethical, lacks authority, infringes on fundamental rights and violates a High Court ruling and the Attorney General's instructions to the government.

Exactly what the budget funds will be used for is unstated in the agreement and left to Shinui's discretion, which is one of its main flaws.

The agreement, writes Attorney Rabbi Green in his petition, "appears to cross the red line into [the realm of] acquiring power with money [that is, bribery], since this agreement was made between the government and a political party with the provision of a political payment equivalent to a sum of NIS 700 million."

Also, according to law the Budget Law must incorporate the legal and factual aspects of the budget as they can be foreseen at the time of its passage. Therefore it must include any coalitional or political agreements that were made before its passage. In this case it did not include the agreement with Shinui and did not address where the money will be spent nor where the money will come from.

Attorney Green also notes that the usual rule is that political agreements are signed between members of the Knesset or between political parties. In this case the agreement was signed between the government and a political party. "This mixing of entities is certainly not desirable and appears to be illegal."

Another legal flaw in the agreement is that it seeks to prevent the government and the ministers from making decisions that are not acceptable to a special committee to be set up by the prime minister and Shinui. Shinui, as an opposition party, has no legal standing to do this and such an agreement appears to contradict the Foundation Law of the government.

"The agreement also includes the phrase, `any additional matter based on the decision of Shinui.' This seeks to include topics and issues that were not specifically mentioned and are left obscure and hidden. Therefore this agreement cannot be seen as having been properly placed before the Knesset, as is require," reads the brief of Rabbi Green. Rabbi Green also notes that the committee to be set up is not properly described and its methods of operation and how it will be set up are not detailed. Since it has so much influence on the budget, all these matters, including the membership of the committee itself, should be made public.

Betzedek is asking the High Court to issue an interim order instructing the government to refrain from reaching decisions directly or indirectly aimed at finding sources of funding to carry out the agreement, since "making such a decision would have an immediate and detrimental effect on the country's citizens, their faith in government authorities and of course the budget for the remaining ministries, including the Defense Ministry."

The organization is also requesting an injunction against the government or Shinui setting up or convening a joint team as provided in the agreement or allocating the funds Shinui demanded. Furthermore, and separately, Attorney Green is asking the government to legislate an amendment to the 2005 Budget Law requiring detailed disclosure of how all the funds are distributed, the same as is required of all other political agreements.

The hearing will be held in less than two weeks and the judge has required the State to respond to the petition within ten days.


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