European MPs get history lesson from Knesset Speaker

We have yet to agree with our haredi friends on a constitution, says Rivlin.

February 8, 2011 04:52
2 minute read.
‘THE US does not feel any moral responsibility for

Rivlin 311. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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European parliamentarians who attended the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting on Monday, received a short lesson in Israeli legislative history from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.

“When this committee was formed 62 years ago, thenprime minister David Ben- Gurion called for the legislation of a constitution for Israel.

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However, to this day we have no constitution, so maybe it would be better if this committee was simply called the Law and Justice Committee,” Rivlin said.

“Though the State of Israel is a Jewish and democratic country, we have so far failed to agree on a constitution. After 2,000 years in exile we understand that Israel is our homeland, but we still have infighting about the country’s definition as a Jewish state and as a democratic state. Due to disputes with our Haredi friends we have yet to reach an agreement about the constitution.”

The meeting, which was attended by 20 members of European parliaments, but only three members of Knesset, discussed combating terrorism funding and reporting foreign funding of NGOs in Israel. The legislators were given a presentation of Israel’s anti-terror funding activities from Paul Landes, chairman of the Israel Money Laundering Prohibition Authority, and heard from committee chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) about the reasons behind his bill, which aims to require reporting of foreign sources of funding for NGOs involved in Israel’s political debates.

“We don’t plan to fight organizations that deal with civil affairs, our problem is with groups that have a political agenda or wish to delegitimize Israel,” Rotem said. “We know that some groups receive money from anti-Israel organizations or Arab governments.”

Bundestag deputy Jerzy Montag (Green Party) expressed concern about Rotem’s bill and the launching of parliamentary inquiry committees to investigate sources of foreign funding, saying he was worried that if the legislation became law it could be difficult for Germans to donate to Israel.

“We in the parliament help transfer German public money to Israeli causes and are worried that we may not be able to do so in the future,” Montag said.

“It all depends on the purposes to which the money goes,” Rotem responded. “We oppose foreign countries pushing for a change in power. We are not against the expression of different opinions. However, if foreign countries fund those opinions, Israeli citizens should know about it. People who have nothing to hide have nothing to worry about.”

Shas MKs Haim Amsalem and Avraham Michaeli both spoke to the Europeans about Israel’s sensitive situation in the Middle East and the prevailing feeling that it is constantly under attack, both physically and politically.

“The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians may appear as if it is a struggle about land and borders, but in truth it is about our right to exist here,” Amsalem said. “Funds that states and organizations donate to the Palestinians are used to tarnish Israel.”

At one point the European legislators had to remind the MKs that they were friends of Israel and were in the country to find ways to improve cooperation and strengthen ties.

“We know and appreciate your difficult situation here.

That’s why we came, but it feels like we are under attack,” a French member of the European Parliament said.

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