Knesset Speaker Dov Shilansky:
Members of the Knesset, I hereby open the Knesset sitting.
Members of the Knesset – past, present and future, I have the honor in opening the Knesset sitting on its day of celebration, and we will dedicate the sitting to the theme, “The Knesset and its work”.
We, that have had the privilege to establish a sovereign state in our country, are having difficulties at times evaluating the great privilege we have had after the holocaust that our people went through in the past generation.
Our people have dreamt about the Kingdom of Israel for generations. The writer of Psalms sang in chapter 137: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, and we wept when we remembered Zion.” The exiles in Babylon refused to sing the songs of Zion in exile and swore that they will not forget destroyed Jerusalem. Our prophets extensively described the joy of return to the homeland, and our prayers are filled with pleas for the return to Zion.
We mark today the 40th year since the establishment of the Knesset, the foundation of the state, which stands at the top of the pyramid of the governing system.
Unfortunately, the legislation of basic laws is not yet complete. I hope that this Knesset, the Twelfth Knesset, will continue with the legislation of basic laws and perhaps, who knows, complete this important task.
The Israeli Knesset is now, with good fortune and blessings, 40 years old – an age that carries dignity. Over the years we have had bills legislated, sometimes amendments upon amendments until the law looks like a piece of patchwork. We should conduct a thorough examination, and perhaps rewrite certain laws. The same applies to ordinances, and specifically to the Knesset Rules of Procedure.
Many of the articles of the Knesset Rules of Procedure are outdated. Most of it was composed in the early years of the Knesset, in continuation to the customs and manners that were applied in the Zionist Congresses and Assemblies of Representatives.
One of the most prominent examples of this issue is the areas of concern of the committees. The House Committee is officially meant to handle complaints regarding Members of the Knesset. The Ethics Committee has been established since then to deal with this issue. The Economic Affairs Committee is meant to handle matters of rationing and supply – which is history. It may have been right in the times of Dov Yosef, and today there are many who do not even know what this means. The Internal Affairs and Environment Committee is supposed to handle “press and intelligence” – what does that mean? Perhaps someone here knows. I don’t. And so on.
The Knesset Rules of Procedure does not speak of sanctions that should be ministered towards Knesset members who act inappropriately. It only provides an option of removing a Knesset member from the plenum or withholding his attendance from five sittings, in accordance with a resolution of the House Committee.
We should think of changing the procedures of discussions. Prolonged debates are not particularly exciting nor do they attract many Knesset members to the plenum. Even the times that are set by the Rules of Procedure should be revised. As a person who chairs plenum sittings, I feel the shortcomings of the system, and yet I am obligated to the set times even when I think differently.
One of the ground rules in parliaments is that the Speaker is listened to and is not interrupted. This fine manner has not yet been rooted amongst us.
I ask that the House Committee that was instated yesterday look after the needed amendments to the Rules of Procedure.
I am happy to congratulate the Knesset for installing its committees. There is much work ahead of them.
The High Court of Justice refers from time to time to the Knesset Rules of Procedure, also in relation to the mutual relations between the Knesset and the court system. In its ruling 85/73 of August 1st 1985, the honorable court stated that “The High Court of Justice has the authority of judicial criticism on inter-parliamentary affairs, but its consideration on executing its authority is not an easy one: On the one hand stands the rule of law principle, including over the legislative authority, and on the other hand stands the high status of the Knesset, which is a political body. It is the natural will of the judicial authority to allow the house of representatives to run its affairs with no judicial intervention - It is the respect that the judges pay to the house of representative that requires them to do so, for this body to also work under the restrictions of the law - Separation of Powers means mutual control and balance between the various authorities.” The court also dealt with this matter in rulings 85/620, 81/652 and 85/325, and came to the same conclusions.
It is often said that democracy, like justice, needs not only to be done, but to be seen. The media has an important role in standing guard and alerting whenever democracy seems to be hurt. There is great importance for the media reports on the actions of the Knesset, but they are also obligated to present balanced reports. For example: There are many Knesset members who work tirelessly, sit in committees and punctuate on every comma in a bill – for even a comma can determine fates – but their work gains no public recognition, and they appear at a loss. There are Knesset members who are caught up in sensations, irregular acts and disturbances in the plenum, and they gain fame and popularity. A balanced report in the media will help us encourage Knesset members towards work that is more quantitative and appropriate. Balanced reports will not only benefit the Knesset members who are worthy of it. The whole Knesset will gain, for it will improve its image. It will also raise the professional value of the reporter.
I am looking for ways, pleasant ways, to bring members of the Knesset to be more active in the plenum and committees. The voting public is entitled to know how its elected Knesset member acts, and we are considering the ways to give them this information. It is not a job, it is a mission.
Albeit, I am aware of the fact that a Knesset member cannot be required to work without the proper tools to do so. It is not acceptable that a Knesset member will work in the hallway or from the cafeteria.
The Knesset building is highly exhibitive, but it does not fulfill our needs. In our current status, every two Knesset members are sharing a room that serves them for work, rest and for the work of their assistants. It is clear that all these actions cannot be done under a single roof. Therefore I have decided to continue the construction of the new building.
We have partially overcome the tremendous lack in rooms, but if I see that the current arrangement does not allow a Knesset member to conduct minimal actions, I will not hesitate in constructing temporary buildings. I am sorry that there were several Knesset members who misunderstood my proposal and saw it as disrespectful to them. In my opinion it is better to have a place to work that is not fancy than having no room at all. I think it is more respectful to converse with citizens and attend to their affairs in a modest room than in a hallway, for today’s system hurts both the citizen and the efficiency of the work.
Members of the Knesset, the discussions held at the Knesset building are often torrid, some times overly so. I would not want to see a drowsy Knesset that has no awareness of the problems of the people and the state, but I shy away from unclean language, cursing and slandering.
I hope that this Knesset will have the wisdom to intertwine morality into politics, prefer spiritual values over materialism and becoming enslaved to temporal values, overcome the daily trivialities, place tolerance, patience and proper manners as its guiding principles, know to bridge over gaps and bring unification, take care of the elderly and the young, the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, the orphan and the estranged.
I respect the views of every person, even when it contradicts my own, for as long as he honestly works towards the idea he believes in. I espouse the saying of Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
I will not conclude before I note the dedicated work of the employees of this house. This year was the 30th year since the establishment of the Knesset Guard. The guard was installed in January 1959 at the old Knesset building, called the “Froumine House,” and it consisted of 24 members. Today it maintains 100 members, standing guard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and they do it faithfully, with dedication and persistence. On matters of security we can, thank goodness, say to them: Today we salute your good and dedicated work.
I would also like to thank the Knesset employees who do their job faithfully. Thanks to their hard work, which is done mostly backstage, we can fulfill our jobs properly.
A special blessing to those Knesset employees who worked in preparing the events connected with the Knesset’s birthday, held yesterday and today, and especially to those who worked through the night in decorating the State Hall and the entire building. We must remember that when we leave this house, there are good, faithful and dedicated workers who stay here and prepare the building for the following day.
In conclusion, I remember that Member of Knesset Rabbi Nurock, may his memory be blessed, would open his speeches at the Knesset, instead of the accepted words “Honorable Knesset,” with the expression “Esteemed House,” which he carried with him since being a parliament member in the diaspora of Latvia. This expression contains great meaning, and may the Knesset indeed be, in its 41st year, spiritually esteemed, with a love for the nation while taking care of the inhabitants of the State.
Members of the Knesset, distinguished guests, you are welcome after this sitting, at 18:30, to attend the awards ceremony for the Speaker of the Knesset’s Prize for Quality of Life, which has become a part of the Knesset’s birthday celebration. You are then welcome with all of our guests to light refreshments and a social get-together. Happy holidays.
Permission to speak and participate in this debate is given to MK Tawfik Toubi. The debate will be in a framework of 5-minute time slots. I thank you in advance for sticking to the time frame.
This material is an unofficial translation of
the "Divrei Haknesset" minutes.