MKs may bar Uzi Arad from Knesset for missing meetings

"The disrespect that Arad displays toward the Knesset does serious harm to democratic rule in Israel," says Knesset official Robert Ilatov.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
December 27, 2010 05:27
3 minute read.
MKs may bar Uzi Arad from Knesset for missing meetings

uzi arad 224 courtesy. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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National Security Council head Uzi Arad may be tasked with coordinating among offices, but instead, he has managed to infuriate Knesset officials to a point that by Sunday they were ready to rescind his entry pass to the legislature.

Army Radio first revealed that Arad, who works directly for the prime minister, has failed to attend or send a representative to a number of Knesset hearings, and Knesset officials have discussed the unprecedented step of banning him from the building.

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Foreign Affairs subcommittee chairman Robert Ilatov (Israel Beiteinu) wrote a furious letter to both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, as well as to Arad himself, in which he complained that Arad had repeatedly refused to attend or send a representative to three meetings of his subcommittee to which he had been invited.

This situation “seriously harmed the Knesset’s activities and intentionally frustrates the Knesset’s role as a body that oversees the government as a whole, and the Prime Minister’s Office specifically,” Ilatov wrote.

“The disrespect that Arad displays toward the Knesset does serious harm to democratic rule in Israel,” he wrote.

Rivlin responded that public servants who are repeatedly asked to come to the Knesset and fail to do so, should not be surprised to find that their pass to the parliament had been revoked. Senior Knesset officials said on Sunday night that a meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, at which Rivlin, Ilatov and Knesset legal adviser Eyal Inon would review the possibility of revoking Arad’s Knesset credentials.



The possibility that sanctions would actually be taken against Arad, however, were minimal, said one official. The official did note that the very threat of removing Knesset credentials from Arad should be seen as “exceptional,” adding there were no other government officials who had managed to garner similar complaints from other committee chairmen.

Most senior government officials hold passes that allow them to enter the Knesset at will. Arad’s defenders argued that under the new National Security Council Law, Arad is not required to brief the Knesset. As a member of the prime minister’s staff, they said, Arad is only required to appear before Knesset committees if instructed to do so by the prime minister.

Despite the complaints, Arad has appeared in the past before Knesset committees, including a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in July, in which he discussed the state of his troubled organization.

He is not, however, a stranger to tensions among the various bodies with which he is supposed to coordinate.

In June, MKs signed a letter calling for a Knesset hearing to examine how tensions between the National Security Council, the Defense Ministry and the IDF affected Israel’s response to the Gaza flotilla incident in May. At the time, reports circulated that neither the IDF nor the Defense Ministry had agreed to send representatives to NSC hearings on the flotilla before the ships approached Israel’s shores.

One of the main reasons for establishing the NSC – at least on paper – was to create a body that would coordinate security strategy among the relevant organizations, including the Defense Ministry and the IDF, as well as the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Mossad, as well as government agencies related to foreign policy.

At the time, Arad was rumored to be considering resignation to protest the minor role played by his organization, after Arad and the IDF’s representative to the government, Maj.-Gen. Yohanan Locker, reportedly squabbled for months regarding the levels of authority of their respective positions.

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