Edelstein puts MKs in time out

Knesset speaker writes letter to MKs demanding decorum after Yesh Atid posts smoldering semi-nude "selfie" on Facebook.

June 12, 2013 12:01
3 minute read.
Yuli Edelstein

yuli edelstein 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

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 teacher.”

This week, however, Edelstein threatened to put MKs in time out.

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.

In 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 last name.

Upon investigation, every single complaint turned out to be true.

“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 do.”

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 watching.

“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 added.

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 taste.

“It’s unfortunate that some choose the easy way to get the public’s attention.
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 Committee.

“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 smoldering look.

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.”

Later on 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 wall.

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