“Adherence to procedure is a cornerstone of democratic institutions and societies, which means we cannot simply disregard the traditional ban on codes of ethics.”
Ramat Gan, June 11 – The Jewish Home Party kicked off efforts over the weekend to formulate a new code of ethics for party leaders and functionaries, in a move that may run afoul of the code of ethics already in place.
Party officials are scheduled to meet today (Sunday) to discuss a document that would guide current and future Jewish Home figures on issues such as conflict of interest, nepotism, public trust, intellectual integrity, and others. However, several veteran party officials warned that under current Jewish Home rules, adopted at the party’s formation in 2008, any attempt to formulate a code of ethics would constitute grounds for dismissal from the organization.
Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, second-in-command of Jewish Home after Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, cautioned those involved in drafting a new code of ethics not to conduct the entire process before consulting legal experts to determine what sanctions they may face for attempting to impose an ethical code and thus violate the party’s ethics.
“We cannot rush blindly down this path,” she admonished her colleagues at a meeting of several Jewish Home officials. “Certainly as Minister of Justice I feel obligated to inform you of the ramifications of this measure, both in terms of your own political careers and the health of this party. On one hand we pride ourselves on bringing together secular and religious Zionists the way no other party has done, and that involves an appeal to the innate Jewish sense of ethics, so a nod toward such a sense makes political sense. On the other hand, adherence to procedure is a cornerstone of democratic institutions and societies, which means we cannot simply disregard the traditional ban on codes of ethics.”
Shaked spoke against the backdrop of efforts to develop an academic code of ethics, an issue fraught with political complications of its own. Bennett and others in the right-wing establishment are weighing such a code to help forestall what they see as politics infecting the classroom, and argue that respectable institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology require their faculty to maintain a specific code of ethics. Critics without and within Jewish home have warned that the application of a code of ethics smacks of stifling freedom of expression, and could be used as easily against holders of opinions in line with Jewish Home sensibilities as against those against.
Supporters of both codes of ethics have countered that promulgating anything that would serve a constructive purpose would itself constitute a violation of the existing code of ethics currently in force across all political parties in Israel.
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