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Dec 17, 2013

Proposed Law: Moral Turpitude changes

Moral Turpitude is a legal term referring to conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals. In essence it means that you did not just break the law, but you broke in a way that is much worse. In Hebrew it is called "קלון".

In addition to the actual punishment for breaking the crime, jail time or whatever, if the judge decides that the crime was one that bears moral turpitude, such a person would not be able to hold public office for a certain period. For example, he could not be a member of the Knesset or as a Minister in the government for a period of 7 years, the Israeli Bar can reject an applicant who had committed a crime with kalon, etc.

Recent examples of crimes with moral turpitude were Aryeh Deri, Moshe Feiglin, Tzachi Hanegbi.. They all had to wait for the 7 years to expire before being able to run for Knesset.

In an attempt to raise the moral level of government, MK Moshe Mizrachi (Labor) proposed a law to change the punishment of moral turpitude. According to Mizrachi's proposal, someone who committed a crime with moral turpitude would never be able to return to public office. Not even after 7 years.

The Ministerial committee for legislation debated his law proposal and decided to make changes to it. They did not like it open-ended like that, but they did double it from 7 to 14 years.

Another change made by the committee is whether people would be grandfathered in. The original proposal had said that even those convicted of such crimes prior to the passing of this law would be bound by it and would not be allowed to return to public life. The committee changed it and allowed the grandfather clause - anybody already convicted under the old law will still be allowed to take public office after 7 years. Only people convicted of such crimes after the passing of the new law will be banned for life.

The proposal has passed the vote of the committee and will be voted on by the Knesset.
(source: Globes)

Good law. I like Mizrachi's original proposal even better to ban them for life..

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  1. You like the idea of "for life"? If the justice system was perfect, and could ensure that no politician would be railroaded and convicted falsely, then perhaps. Even then, I don't see why the decision of whom to appoint to office should be removed from the voters. Certainly in a country with an imperfect justice system, where we have seen many politicians prosecuted for crimes that they have not been found guilty of, we should hesitate to take drastic measures that may compound the negative consequences of wrongful convictions.

    1. "Even then, I don't see why the decision of whom to appoint to office should be removed from the voters"

      so anybody should be able to run? hardened criminals? murderers? people involved in fraud? I have no problem with the legal system saying somebody has a specific moral issue that disqualifies him. In the United States too people are disqualified form public office for a variety of reasons. in some States atheists cannot run for office. convicted felons cannot run in some states. felons can run for Congress, but the House and the Senate have the right to reject a convicted felon from serving.

      In the US the qualification of moral turpitude is used mostly in immigration law, to reject potential immigrants, but also for barring people from practicing law and being reliable witnesses - not from holding office. If we are going to use moral turpitude at all here as a barometer for public office, I would prefer it disqualify forever. Perhaps I would agree that a program could be created for some sort of rehab where the person in question could somehow requalify if deemed to be truly rehabbed.

      Personally, I think it is a shonda that people like Aryeh Deri and Tzachi Hanegbi can hold public positions. I dont think what Feiglin did is quite as bad and I dont think he should have been painted with kalon, but I would have been willing to let him be disqualified as a result of such a law that would keep the really dirty people out. No law is perfect, and we have to accept certain deficiencies if overall it is a better solution.

    2. Yes, anyone should be able to run.It's up to the voters to decide who they like or not. The fact that the USA disqualifies felons and practices age discrimination (minimum age limits for Congress, etc.) is undemocratic.

      Personally, I would never vote for a felon or a 20 year old, but the choice should be made by the voters if only to show confidence and strength in the electorate.

      Unilateral bans such as these insult the public, strengthen the perception of a nanny state and reduced personal responsibility, and diminish the prestige of elections.

  2. Actually Feiglin wasn't conclusively given a "kalon" for his civil disobedience advocacy. The Supreme Court voted 4-yes 3-no but did not issue a final judgement on the question. Objections raised when he tried to run in 2003 were handled within the elections authorities and he was barred from running, and when 10 months after the fact the question was reviewed a la Turkel the response was turpitude means something morally corrupt and that did not apply to Feiglin's crimes.

    I think crimes should be published, and seven years is a good way to get the public's attention. And after that I can see the value of letting the public decide. At some point if a public knowingly keeps electing corrupt leaders, there isn't much the system can do anymore.

  3. Your post ignores one major difference between how crimes of "moral turpitude" are dealt with in the U.S. and other countries as opposed to Israel.

    In the U.S. certain offenses are categorized as crimes involving moral turpitude, others are not. Anyone convicted of such a crime suffers whatever disqualifications (mostly immigration bars, loss of professional credentials, and impeachment if one is a witness) are applicable. When determining whether the crime the person was convicted of is such a crime, the court looks to the elements of the crime that the prosecution has to prove and whether they include "moral turpitude" -- which, broadly speaking, means evil or dishonest intentions. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_turpitude for more details.

    The point is, in the U.S., anyone convicted of such a crime suffers those consequences.

    In Israel, in contrast, the judge decides whether or not to add "kalon" to the conviction. Two people could be convicted of fraud or bribery or murder, and one can get kalon, the other not. This seems like a very subjective determination, and the potential for abuse is obvious -- very easy to see "kalon" for one whose politics you find distasteful.

    Wonder if anyone has ever researched which convictions were or were not determined to be subject to the "kalon" provisions and how that correlates with the poltics of the defendants and the judges.


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