Amid controversy, Knesset approves salary hike for ministers

A Knesset committee voted to increase significantly the salary of government ministers. The opposition cried foul. 

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

The Finance Committee voted on Monday to increase the salary of government ministers by nearly NIS 5,000 ($1,430), bringing them to the same salary as the opposition leader – NIS 44,223 per month.

Deputy ministers will get a pay increase of about NIS 3,000, bringing them up to par with Members of Knesset (MK), who will make a monthly salary of NIS 39,149 in 2018.

The prime minister will earn the same as the Knesset speaker, NIS 49,554. Starting in 2019, their pay will be linked to the average salary in the market, like that of Knesset members.

The average salary in Israel stands at about NIS 9,500, while the median salary stands at about NIS 7,500.

The debate at the Finance Committee prior to the vote quickly descended into a fierce shouting match.

“We need a clear government hierarchy that will be expressed in salary as well,” said Finance Committee Chairman Moshe Gafni. “It cannot be that ministers, with all the responsibility they have on their shoulders… earn less than MKs.”

Conflict of interest?

MK Micky Rosenthal, of the Labor opposition, argued that it is a “conflict of interest” for MKs to determine the salaries of ministers.

“I agree that a member of the cabinet should earn more than an MK. But instead of canceling the linkage, which benefits MKs, and stopping the raise in their salaries, the ministers are being rewarded… and this is all at the public’s expense,” he said.

MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) said the debate on the ministers’ salaries should not be held before agreements on disability pensions are implemented.

“Appearances are very important. We shouldn’t move an inch until the agreement reached two years ago to link disability pensions to the consumer price index is implemented,” he stated, adding that the handling of the salaries of Knesset members and ministers should be placed in the hands of an external committee. Gilon himself is bound to a wheelchair.

MK Mickey Levy of Yesh Atid said that he believes that the prime minister and the other ministers should receive a salary that matches their status and responsibilities. However, “it looks bad when we determine our own salaries. Let’s remove [the issue] from our hands.”

‘Hypocrisy to attack decision’

On the other hand, MK Bezalel Smotrich of Bayit Yehudi said that “the ministers’ salaries are low. That is true subjectively and objectively. The justice minister, for example, earns less than all of the senior civil servants in her ministry.”

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Likud MK Oren Hazan asserted that it is “hypocrisy on the part of Knesset members who sit here and attack this decision, while they themselves have not given up their [annual] salary increase. So the public should be aware of the hypocrisy of those Knesset members who are yelling now. There are members here who call out against the [employment] conditions of ministers, deputy ministers and Knesset members – and all for a momentary headline. This reality has to change. All the hypocrites are invited to give up their salary increase.”

Gafni summed up the session by stating that he agrees that a public committee should determine the salaries of elected officials. “However, on the eve of the updating of salaries for 2018, we must pass this decision in order to immediately correct this injustice, which has been going on for a number of years now,” he concluded.