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Israel

Publication of Information Legislative Amendments (IL0030)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Israel Action Plan 2017-2019

Action Plan Cycle: 2017

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Counseling and Legislation (Department of Constitutional-Public Law), Ministry of Justice

Support Institution(s): Government Freedom of Information Unit, Government ICT Authority, Members of the transparency team, including representatives of NPOs (such as the Israel Democracy Institute, the Movement for Quality Government and the Freedom of Information Movement) and representatives from academia

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Legislation & Regulation, Legislative, Public Participation, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Israel Implementation Report 2017-2019, Israel Design Report 2017-2019

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
Expanding the public information being methodically and actively published by public authorities, beyond providing information in response to specific requests. What is the commitment?
Promoting necessary legislative amendments. How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?
Fulfilling this commitment will involve examining the current situation and the need for amending it, considering the existing arrangements against the latest needs identified by the government. The imposition of a detailed and expanded obligation to disseminate information to the public will promote government transparency and will enable the public, civil society and the business sector to gain access to important information. Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?
Transparency: Amending the law will lead to an updated approach that is more in line with reality than currently exists. Additional information
The need for a normative change; i.e., legislative amendments, is being examined, coupled with the promotion of actions relating to administrative and infrastructural (computerization) aspects that will practically enable fulfillment of the government authorities’ commitment.; Milestone Activity with a verifiable deliverable: Disseminating a memorandum of law concerning expansion of the obligations to make information publicly accessible
January 2018
March 2018
Completing the public discourse and clarifying comments by the public and by authorities to the memorandum of law
April 2018
September 2018 Submitting the draft bill for approval by the ministerial legislation committee
October 2018
December 2018

IRM Midterm Status Summary

8. Promoting Legislative Amendments regarding active publication of information

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan: [25]

Expanding the public information being methodically and actively published by public authorities, beyond providing information in response to specific requests.

Fulfilling this commitment will involve examining the current situation and the need for amending it, considering the existing arrangements against the latest needs identified by the government. The imposition of a detailed and expanded obligation to disseminate information to the public will promote government transparency and will enable the public, civil society and the business sector to gain access to important information.

Milestone

8.1 Disseminating a memorandum of law concerning expansion of the obligations to make information publicly accessible

8.2 Completing the public discourse and clarifying comments by the public and by authorities to the memorandum of law

8.3 Submitting the draft bill for approval by the ministerial legislation committee

Start Date: June 2017

End date: October 2018

Context and Objectives

Israel passed its Freedom of Information law in 1998. [26] However, in the 20 years since its passing, the law has not been significantly amended despite dramatic conceptual and technological developments in the field. Specifically, the 1998 law has limited requirements for proactive disclosure of information held by public authorities, in other words, spontaneous disclosure on behalf of the public agency without a FOIA request being filed. It does not require such disclosure from public authorities, other than disclosing some environmental information and agencies’ internal guidelines according to which their officers carry out their public duties. This creates many “unknown unknowns”; information citizens are unaware of and therefore will never ask for. Previous Israel action plans have included commitments to proactively publish information but not to promote legislation ordering such measures. [27]

Many bills have been tabled in the Knesset to expand the law’s reach, particularly for proactive disposure, [28] but most have been opposed by the government. It is therefore important that this commitment aims to voluntarily amend the law by increasing disclosure obligations for government agencies. The IRM researchers learned from CSO experts (mostly the Movement for Freedom of Information and the Public Knowledge Workshop) that the government held specific roundtable sessions with them to discuss this commitment, followed by “one-on-one” meetings with organizations.

Although the milestones for the commitment are vague, they can be easily verified, as they are supposed to produce official papers. The impact of this commitment if fully implemented could be significant. Those CSOs who were consulted during the creation of the action plan felt the discussions with government regarding this commitment were fruitful and that they were listened to. Many data activists affiliated with the Public Knowledge Workshop felt that proactive disclosure may create a host of new opportunities for CSOs and for private sector initiatives. These activists and entrepreneurs are not always aware of the kind of information that public authorities hold. The commitment, if fully implemented, could provide the activists with insights into government processes they may have been previously unaware of and give them the tools to understand these processes. Nevertheless, the commitment itself only mentions the creation of a bill without referring to its content. In that sense, its impact will be limited unless the bill passes the ministerial committee and then the Knesset. In such a scenario, depending on what the exact details of the amendment would be, it may have been transformative.

Next steps

For now, the commitment as presented in the action plan is yet to be implemented, even though its end date has passed. Since Israel went through two general election cycles in 2019 and at the time of the writing of this report a new government is yet to be formed, it is doubtful that more will happen before the action plan is finished. The IRM researchers first and foremost recommend committing to specific future amendments in the law. As no such amendments are expected to take place in 2019 given the general elections, it is suggested that the new government that will emerge could clarify what categories of information it intends to bring under the law and what category of public authorities it will cover. Also, it is recommended to refer to the format of proactive publication.

The IRM researchers further recommend that the law be better harmonized with modern technology to shorten schedules of publication, allow electronic submission to all authorities (already available to government agencies), and to allow access to data in machine-readable digital formats. It is also suggested that some private/public hybrid corporation be brought in under the scope of the law (continuing the line of legislation from the 2007 amendment of the law that brought state-owned enterprises under its purview).

[25] Government OCT Authority, Open Government Action Plan for 2018–2019, pgs. 34–35 https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Israel_Action-Plan_2017-2019_EN.pdf
[27] See for instance the commitment in the second Action Plan to increase transparency regarding contracts between the state and private bodies, and a commitment titled “Data.gov” aimed to “increase exposure of government databases for public use”.
[28] Some examples include PB (private bill) 5732/20 to create an FOI commission; PB 5692/20 to order proactive disclosure re meetings with lobbyists; PB 5029/20 proactive disclosure of information re tenders; PB 3818/20 expanding the reach of the law to the Jewish Nation Fund and PB 3483/20 to order publication of information on financial entities. All in all, in the 20th Knesset, which started its term in March 2015 and will end in March 2019, 24 private bills were tabled to expand the scope or impact of the law, none of which became law. One amendment was proposed by the government and did indeed become law, but this was to narrow the scope of the law by removing from its reach the Ministry for Strategic Affairs.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

8. Promoting Legislative Amendments regarding active publication of information

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan: [35]

Expanding the public information being methodically and actively published by public authorities, beyond providing information in response to specific requests.

Fulfilling this commitment will involve examining the current situation and the need for amending it, considering the existing arrangements against the latest needs identified by the government. The imposition of a detailed and expanded obligation to disseminate information to the public will promote government transparency and will enable the public, civil society and the business sector to gain access to important information.

Milestone

8.1 Disseminating a memorandum of law concerning expansion of the obligations to make information publicly accessible

8.2 Completing the public discourse and clarifying comments by the public and by authorities to the memorandum of law

8.3 Submitting the draft bill for approval by the ministerial legislation committee

Start Date: June 2017

End date: October 2018

With this commitment, the government intended to amend Israel’s Freedom of Information (FOI) law, particularly around pro-active disclosure of information. [36] Israel’s FOI law in 1998 has been enforced since 1999. [37] However, over the twenty years since its enactment, the basic mechanisms, exemptions, definitions, and requirements have not changed, in spite of the dramatic changes in the concept of transparency, open government, and available technologies. The only changes made were to the scope of organizations covered by the law and some pro-active environmental disclosure.

The implementation of this commitment never started. According to officials in the Ministry of Justice, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked opposed the suggested amendments. [38] At the time of the writing of this report, Israel has an interim government, pending elections and the formation of a new government. It is yet to be seen whether a future Justice Minister will choose to revive this commitment.

It is worth mentioning that during a roundtable conference marking twenty years since the passing of the law, Minister Shaked, while expressing support to allocating the resources to promote its implementation, also objected to its expansion. She suggested that its implementation in certain aspects has gone too far, stating that not every discussion between politicians should be published. [39] The Director-General of the Prime Minister’s office suggested that the law should be amended to narrow its scope, since many information requests are filed for private or political vendetta, and the time and resources required to handle the thousands of requests are too burdensome.

[35] “Open Government Action Plan for 2018–2019”, Government OCT Authority, pp. 34–35, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Israel_Action-Plan_2017-2019_EN.pdf.

[36] For a more detailed description of the commitment, see “Open Government Action Plan for 2018–2019”, Government OCT Authority, pg. 28, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Israel_Action-Plan_2017-2019_EN.pdf.

[37] For English version of the text of the statute go to: “Freedom of Information Law 5758-1998”, Ministry of the Environment, Israel’s Services and Information Portal, https://bit.ly/3bIK662.

[38] Eyal Zandberg, head of public law section at the legislation department, Ministry of Justice, interview by IRM researcher, 5 November 2019.

[39] Roundtable at the Israel Democracy Institute, 19 May 2018. IRM researcher Roy Peled participated in the discussion. For a summary of the discussion on the Israel Democracy Institute’s website see: “20 years for enacting the Freedom of Information law”, Israeli Democracy Institute, available [in Hebrew] at https://www.idi.org.il/events/23371.


Commitments

  1. Civic Participation Processes in Government

    IL0023, 2017, Capacity Building

  2. Resolution Implementation Reports

    IL0024, 2017, E-Government

  3. Action Plan Performance Indicators

    IL0025, 2017, E-Government

  4. Government Call Centers

    IL0026, 2017, Marginalized Communities

  5. National Legislation Database

    IL0027, 2017, E-Government

  6. National Plan for the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    IL0028, 2017, Anti-Corruption

  7. Transparency Criteria

    IL0029, 2017, Access to Information

  8. Publication of Information Legislative Amendments

    IL0030, 2017, Access to Information

  9. Transparency, Participation, Accessibility of Information in Local Authorities and Ministry of the Interior

    IL0031, 2017, E-Government

  10. Publicly Accessible Databases

    IL0032, 2017, Access to Information

  11. Remotely Accessing Government Services

    IL0033, 2017, Access to Justice

  12. Paperless Government

    IL0034, 2017, E-Government

  13. Open-Source Code

    IL0035, 2017, Access to Information

  14. Evaluation of Open Government Plan

    IL0036, 2017,

  15. Contracting Between the Government and Private Sector

    IL0016, 2015, Access to Information

  16. Unified Website for Government Offices

    IL0017, 2015,

  17. Data.Gov

    IL0018, 2015, Access to Information

  18. Public's Satisfaction with Government Services

    IL0019, 2015, Public Participation

  19. ATI on Legislation

    IL0020, 2015, Open Regulations

  20. Civic Participation Tools

    IL0021, 2015, E-Government

  21. Civic Participation

    IL0022, 2015, Open Regulations

  22. Review of the Governmental Freedom of Information Unit's Authority

    IL0014, 2015, Access to Information

  23. Web for FOI

    IL0015, 2015, Access to Information

  24. Establishing a Cross-Sector Forum That Promotes Open Government Programs

    IL0001, 2012, Public Participation

  25. State Budget Information Accessibility

    IL0002, 2012, Fiscal Openness

  26. Publication of Work Plans in Government Offices

    IL0003, 2012, E-Government

  27. Establishing a System of Measurement and Review and Publicizing a Government Service Report to the Public

    IL0004, 2012, Capacity Building

  28. Cooperation Between the Government and the Public in Developing Online Applications

    IL0005, 2012, Private Sector

  29. Public Participation in Policymaking Processes

    IL0006, 2012, Open Regulations

  30. Establishing a Freedom of Information Unit in the Ministry of Justice

    IL0007, 2012, Access to Information

  31. Developing Technology Infrastructure for Providing Government Services

    IL0008, 2012, E-Government

  32. Inter-Office Committee for Improving Business Processes

    IL0009, 2012, E-Government

  33. Creating a Government Contact Center (NAMAL - Meeting Point for Citizens)

    IL0010, 2012, E-Government

  34. Online Catalog of Government Services

    IL0011, 2012, E-Government

  35. Establishing a Unit for Government Service to the Public

    IL0012, 2012, Public Service Delivery

  36. Establishing a National Information Technology (IT) Unit Headed by a Government CIO

    IL0013, 2012, E-Government

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