(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Shortly after the Knesset gave initial approval to a controversial decision to
establish a parliamentary inquiry into left-wing organizations critical of state
institutions, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told The Jerusalem Post over the
weekend that the decision was an overextension of Knesset powers.
said he would work in the coming days to convince coalition members to oppose
the probe’s establishment, but added that he believed he would have an uphill
fight against junior members of his own party.
Left-wing NGOs mad Knesset to probe foreign funding
“On principle, it is not
good for MKs to turn the Knesset into a legal tribunal to judge political
beliefs,” Rivlin said.
“The Knesset should use the tool of parliamentary
inquiry for completely apolitical topics concerning administration, for
instance, on Ethiopian immigration.”
Rivlin expressed extreme discomfort
with the decision made Wednesday by the Knesset plenum to set up a parliamentary
committee of inquiry to examine foreign funding for Israeli left-wing
non-governmental organizations, particularly those who openly criticize the
IDF’s actions. The plenum decision will now be turned over to the
Likud-controlled House Committee for discussion, and then returned to the plenum
for a final vote.
“What should not happen is for inquiries to be
established so that the coalition can investigate the opposition, or the Right
can investigate the Left.
The Knesset cannot turn into a legal tribunal
of members of one type against the other.
Otherwise, 61 MKs could rule
against 59, and the remaining 61 would reject 30, and so on and so forth, until
there would be a parliament of one,” he continued.
“Political debates can
and should be held in the Knesset’s regular committees, and there are certainly
Knesset committees that can discuss aspects of the questions surrounding funding
for NGOs. The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee can discuss the issue of
turning over names of IDF soldiers to foreign bodies, and the Law Committee can
discuss issues of funding.”
Rivlin, a declared Jabotinskyite who long
represented the right-wing of his own Likud Party, emphasized that he was not
defending the actions of left-wing organizations targeted by the
“Even if the criticisms against the organizations are correct, the
NGOs can now just say that all the allegations are politically
There are other bodies of the state: the Shin Bet [Israeli
Security Service], the attorney-general, and the courts [that can] decide if
their actions were illegal. But creating a political forum will just give
legitimacy to their behavior, and then, even when they do things that are
illegal, they will say that the very [legislation deeming their] illegality is
The Knesset Speaker intends to speak with major faction
leaders, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Tzipi
Livni, in advance of the House Committee meeting that will determine the
parameters of the probe.
“The factions must understand that their
rallying call should not be total war against the other side. There are parties
that gain political power by emphasizing extremism and hatred against others,
and this must not happen in the Knesset. All of the less-sectoral factions must
clearly state that the phenomenon upon which we are voting should not be
addressed in this forum.”
The right wing, he warned, should also keep in
mind that “politics, especially in our system, is a wheel. Sometimes you are on
top, and sometimes you are on the bottom. We yelled when the Left began to ask
about international donors who were providing funds for building in Jerusalem
and the right-wing doctrine. A democracy must be concerned with the minority,
whether it is political or ethnic, and take heed of [Revisionist philosopher and
leader Ze’ev] Jabotinsky’s warning against majoritization.”
acknowledged that he faced a difficult challenge in convincing the younger
members of his own party.
“I am very concerned by the interpretation of
Jabotinsky by our younger members,” he emphasized. “His most important article
was “On Majoritization.”
In general, he bemoaned, “incitement has become
part of the utilitarian political climate.”
“Once it was called
McCarthyism in the United States; in Russia, they spoke of show trials. Today in
the growing extremes between Left and Right, coalition and opposition, the sides
use parliamentary tools to enforce a majoritization of the issues.
with good backgrounds mostly concentrate on getting headlines through
emphasizing and using hate to get political ends. This is a dark climate that
endangers not just the democratic state, but the state itself,” Rivlin added.