Justice minister was paid head of auto safety lobby

JERUSALEM — Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi is denying that his role as parliamentarian collided with his also being the paid head of an auto safety lobby.

Hanegbi responded Monday to a report in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz that before he became a Cabinet minister last year — but while still a member of the Knesset — he had appointed himself to serve as director general of a lobby he had co-sponsored to advance road safety legislation.

During the 12 months before the lobby ceased operations last summer, Hanegbi was paid more than $35,000 and received a car, the newspaper reported.

Hanegbi denied any conflict of interest, saying his activities with the lobby went beyond his responsibilities as a legislator.

According to the newspaper report, most of the lobbyists belonged to Likud.

The lobby's revenues came exclusively from private donations. About half of the revenues went toward Hanegbi's salary and car expenses.

The lobby ceased its activities in July 1996, a month before the government decided to adopt the road safety legislation.

Hanegbi defended his role, saying that the lobby's work had advanced the cause of road safety in Israel, where poor roads and unsafe driving habits have created a steadily mounting toll of fatalities.

He also said that for years he had refrained from holding any job beyond his parliamentary duties, in contrast to other Knesset members.

This had cost him thousands of dollars in potential income, he told Ha'aretz.