The Likud Strikes Back: The V15 Bill

During the last election, V15 campaign material appeared throughout the country. The campaign, similar to that of a PAC in America, made their “Anyone but Bibi” slogan as common as people who didn’t want to vote for Boogie Herzog. Most understood that “Anyone” did not include Bennett, Kahlon or Lieberman, but rather was an appeal for voters to swing left. Eventually, it was revealed that the campaign was run, at least partly, with hundreds of thousands of dollars from the US State Department, though it is unclear if the US knew that their grants were to be used in such a way.  

As it turns out, there is a lot of money to be found abroad for people who want to replace Bibi. It is no surprise then that the government wants to prevent another V15. On its face, a law to limit this kind of spending should actually appeal to both sides. Currently, parties are not allowed to receive a donation above 1,000 NIS or 2,300 NIS during an election year (wanna read the full election law??? I know you do!). Allowing for huge sums of money from “independent” organizations could lead to a very unsavory situation.

Therefore, a number of Likud members proposed a law that passed in its first reading. The law does not limit who can act, but only forces any entity active in elections to reveal the details of its organization and its funding. It also insists on a full separation from political parties and these groups. Involvement in elections includes maintaining voter databases, providing transportation on Election Day, appealing directly to voters with specific political opinions and participating in political advertising. If a body spends more than 100,000 NIS on these activities they will be subject to increased scrutiny. Furthermore, the law limits how much they can receive from a single source.

These types of laws are always fun. While the Likud can claim that they are defending democracy through what is essentially campaign finance reform, in reality they created the law to help them in elections. For the left, the cognitive dissonance is real. The law justly identifies the problem of PAC’s in Israeli politics that are an easy conduit for foreign influence or corruption. Reading through the protocols of the debate, most of the objections come in the form of sarcasm. “O, this is the corruption problem?” “What about newspapers?” “You ruin democracy!” etc. as opposed to more on point reservations.

The most interesting challenge was that the law needlessly challenges the right of citizens to politically organize. Of course, this sounds awfully like money is speech, the bane of the American left and a sticking point for the Israeli left when talking about issues such as Yisrael HaYom. And so we experience the terror of juggling ideological-political balls. Sometimes, your opponents agree with you and the balls fall on your head.

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