Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has more in common with a kindergarten teacher
than he thought he would when he got the job, and on Tuesday night, he wrote a
letter asking his kindergarteners – the MKs – to behave.
In an exclusive
interview with The Jerusalem Post in March, Edelstein said: “I’ll always be
walking a tightrope in the Knesset. [MKs] aren’t kindergarten students – they’re
elected officials, just like me, and I’m not their boss or their
This week, however, Edelstein threatened to put MKs in time
In a letter to all 120 legislators, the Knesset speaker mentioned
complaints from citizens and visitors about their behavior, including eating and
drinking in the plenum, taking photos with their smartphones and tablet
computers, speaking on the phone and using props during speeches.
addition, people complained about “unparliamentary expression by one of the new
MKs, using undignified language, which harms the honor of the Knesset and the MK
using it,” he wrote.
Edelstein was referring to a plenum speech three
weeks ago in which MK Boaz Toporovsky (Yesh Atid) said, “I move my ass,” meaning
that he works hard.
The Knesset speaker also scolded the MKs for calling
each other by their first names or as “mister,” rather than MK followed by a
Upon investigation, every single complaint turned out to be
“On my first day on the job I said I will have zero tolerance for
phenomena of contempt and disrespect of the Knesset,” Edelstein wrote. “Luckily,
we have not reached that point yet, but I fear the day that, God forbid, we
The Knesset speaker warned that votes on the state budget begin next
week and that the public, which is meant to see MKs as role models, will be
“We must all behave with restraint, tolerance, respect and
politeness to one another and to the Knesset, our joint home and the
foundational institution of Israeli democracy,” he wrote.
“As MKs, the
image of the Knesset must be on our mind at all times. The loss of the public’s
faith in its leaders and in politics endangers our existence.
If we do
not protect the Knesset’s honor, no one will do it for us,” he
Edelstein concluded his letter by pointing out that the 19th
Knesset has a record number of new MKs, which he said was refreshing and an
opportunity for positive change.
On Wednesday, former Knesset speaker MK
Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) said some lawmakers were behaving in bad
“It’s unfortunate that some choose the easy way to get the
These phenomena took place in the previous Knesset,
too, and it is very unfortunate,” Rivlin said.
If MKs cannot set limits
for themselves, there should be a new ethical code, he added, pointing out that
there is a draft for a new code waiting to be approved by the House
“Our founding fathers understood that the Knesset must be
respected, but today the situation is different,” Rivlin explained. “MKs need to
understand that the Knesset influences them and they influence the Knesset’s
image and the public’s faith in it.”
Edelstein’s letter came on the same
day that a self-portrait of Toporovsky making bedroom eyes at the camera went
viral after he posted it on Facebook.
In the photo, Toporovsky is lying
in the bed in his Knesset office. He is undressed, but his shirt is covering his
chest like a sheet, and he is giving what appears to be an attempt at a
Toporovsky wrote on Facebook that he was in the plenum
participating in votes until 4:15 a.m., because haredi parties tried to
filibuster a bill requiring at least four females to be on the committee that
elects judges to rabbinical courts.
The Yesh Atid MK added that he’s glad
there are showers in the Knesset.
His wife, former MasterChef reality
show contestant Shelly Herman, commented: “It’s not fun sleeping without you!
I’m so proud of you, beloved husband.”
But others were less impressed by
the photo, with one viewer commenting: “Christ, what an idiot.”
Tuesday, Toporovsky tried to cover his tracks, writing on Facebook that he’s
glad the photo generated so much talk, because now people know how hard Yesh
Atid is working at making change.
Toporovsky isn’t the only Yesh Atid MK
to come under fire for Facebook comments recently.
Health Minister Yael
German faced criticism for responding “oyoyoy” to a complaint on her Facebook