Candidates for election to the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, run on lists put forward by the various political parties. They run not as individuals but as members of their lists. The parties compile their lists in different ways – some are appointed by party leaders or chosen by committees. Several of the top parties hold internal primaries where candidates campaign for inclusion in the list and are chosen according to how many votes they receive.
Different rules apply to the financing of these internal primary elections and general election that follows regarding the ability of individuals and entities, both inside and outside of Israel to make donations or contributions.
Funding for Candidates
Candidates for Knesset: It is legal for a citizen of any country to give up to 10,000 NIS for a primary election candidate in Israel. A donor is limited to a total of 30,000 NIS in aggregate for all contributions in the election cycle. Only personal funds are allowed. The law clarifies that the donations of a person and his family members and dependents are considered one donation. Most MKs have links through which one can easily make a donation.
Party Chairman/Candidates for Office of Prime Minister: In contests to determine candidates for party leaders or the post of Prime Minister, where only one candidate may be elected, an individual donor may donate only to one candidate. In primaries where the number of qualified voters exceeds 50,000, an individual donation may amount to 40,000 NIS.
Party Chairman/Candidates for Office of Prime Minister
An individual can donate to a party up to 2,000 NIS. There are very strong limitations since parties campaign money comes mainly from the state.
Corporate, Union and Other Advocacy Group Contributions
Party groups, candidate lists and elected officials such as the Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament, members and heads of local authorities are prohibited from receiving donations from corporations or registered partnerships in Israel or abroad during both the general election and during primaries.
Donations by non-profit organizations (NPOs) are not prohibited so long as they are reported and do not exceed the ceilings provided by law. A report by the Israeli State Comptroller’s Office into the financing of the 1999 election criticized violations of mandatory reporting regulations and the excessive donations by NPOs. The Comptroller determined that activities by NPOs may be subject to campaign finance regulation if they constitute a “campaign message,” in that they are designed to influence voters to vote or to refrain from voting for a candidate or for a party group and there is an organizational link between the party group and the NPO.
The Law limits the total amount that may be contributed to an individual’s campaign in the primaries to 405,000 NIS plus 2 NIS for every voter above 100,000 voters; or, double this amount for a candidate for Prime Minister or Party Chairman in primaries with up to 50,000 qualified voters; and four time this amount in primaries with over 50,000 eligible voters.