MKs accept a ‘considerate’ 5.1% pay hike, having been advised against taking 12.5%

Citing need to keep change in line with 2022 market and Israelis’ ongoing cost of living struggles, MKs accept advice to reduce their raises

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

The Knesset's House Committee chair Likud MK Ofir Katz during a debate on fast-tracking bills that would annul the citizenship of convicted terrorists who receive stipends from the Palestinian Authority, in the Knesset in Jerusalem, January 9, 2023. (Noam Moshkovitz, Knesset spokesperson)
The Knesset's House Committee chair Likud MK Ofir Katz during a debate on fast-tracking bills that would annul the citizenship of convicted terrorists who receive stipends from the Palestinian Authority, in the Knesset in Jerusalem, January 9, 2023. (Noam Moshkovitz, Knesset spokesperson)

A Knesset panel decided on Tuesday to raise the salaries of lawmakers and senior government officials by 5.1 percent, in their first pay hike since freezing wages in 2020 in response to economic uncertainty triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Originally planned for 12.5% to cover the average market wage raise over the past three years, the Knesset House Committee voted to accept a civil service salary committee recommendation to reduce their raises in light of Israel’s ongoing cost of living struggles, and to choose a figure more in line with market raises over the past year. The move was quickly approved by the Finance Committee and does not require an additional floor vote.

Chairing the sparsely attended House Committee session, in which four MKs voted to approve the pay changes and one abstained, Likud lawmaker Ofir Katz said that “elected officials must listen to the feelings of the public” and in light of recent importer and manufacturer price hikes and climbing inflation, “it is very difficult for people” and “I think we are being considerate.”

However, Shas MK Yinon Azoulai pushed back against the need to temper raises, telling the committee that “everything that MKs receive is received by right” and suggesting that their salaries be raised on par with the Supreme Court president, who makes double a lawmaker’s pay.

The pay hike, which will also apply to the prime minister, ministers, deputy ministers, the president, and judges, was first announced last week and also received the backing of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, and Finance Committee chair Moshe Gafni.

Under the 5.1% pay raise, monthly salaries will increase from NIS 45,274 ($13,300) to NIS 47,582 ($13,980) for MKs, from NIS 56,345 ($16,550) to NIS 59,218 ($17,400) for the premier, from NIS 50,673 ($14,890) to NIS 53,257 ($15,650) for ministers, from NIS 45,275 ($13,300) to NIS 47,584 ($13,980) for deputy ministers, from NIS 64,673 ($19,000) to NIS 67,971 ($19,970) for the president and from NIS 104,256 ($30,630) to NIS 109,573 ($32,200) for the Supreme Court chief justice.

Stating their expectations that public servants should set good examples during a difficult economic situation, the Public Committee for Determining Salaries and Other Payments to Members of Knesset wrote in its recommendation to the committee that their original 12.5% raise “is inappropriate.”

Shas MK Yinon Azoulai speaks during a Knesset House Committee debate, January 17, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Furthermore, the panel argued that incorporating a three-year salary increase in one go “does not fit with the expected wage changes in the public sector” and would have the effect of “widening the wage gap between public officials and other public sector employees.”

The panel pressed MKs to permanently forgo salary bumps to cover increased average market wages during 2020 and 2021.

Azoulai, who did not agree with the muted pay raise but said he would not fight Katz on the issue, argued that lawmakers deserve their pay.

“I am a servant of the public and devote all my time to it. Even when I’m not in the Knesset, I walk around the country and hear the public’s sentiments,” he said, adding that citizens reach out to him “even at 4 a.m.”

Knesset Comptroller Haim Avidor said that the panel’s recommendation is intended to give MKs “a fair and respectable salary that will allow them to do their job,” while also arguing that “the expected increase of 12.5% was unusual and that, in its opinion, does not actually reflect the current economic situation.”

Opposition lawmakers eschewed the meeting, which Likud MK Moshe Saada criticized as shirking the hard decisions.

UTJ MK Moshe Gafni speaks at a Degel HaTorah faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, January 9, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“I’m looking for opposition members in this debate and can’t find them. Where have you gone? What are you afraid of? Outside, they tell us, ‘raise our wages,’ but they won’t come to vote because of the fear of visibility,” Saada scolded.

Approving the move in his Finance Committee shortly after the House Committee decision, finance panel chair Gafni brushed off requests from representatives of judges to postpone finalization.

The United Torah Judaism MK said that the current economic situation in Israel “requires the mobilization of everyone” and agreeing to the Public Committee’s recommendation is “sending a message to the public.”

The 5.1% pay rise will come into effect for 2023 lawmaker and public official wages.

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