MKs must maintain a certain standard of behavior when representing the state at special plenum meetings with world leaders, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Monday, speaking at a discussion of the Knesset House Committee.
Edelstein tackled two main problems he sees as worrisome – low attendance by MKs in the special meetings and inappropriate behavior during them. Edelstein said that it is expected from the peoples’ representatives to hold a certain standard when it comes to these meetings.
He added that those issues harm the Knesset image in Israel and around the world, and made some suggestions in front of the House Committee, the body in charge of the Knesset statute, of how things can be improved.
“I do not own the Knesset and I shouldn’t reply alone to the angry emails I get after these special meetings,” said Edelstein. “Last week, when we marked the Knesset anniversary, only 20 MKs were at the plenum when we started the meeting. After insistent pleading we got 45, while there were 69 lawmakers in the building. That means the over 20 of them didn’t even bother to come.”
Edelstein then suggested sanctioning MKs who miss more than three consecutive special meetings.
The speaker also criticized MKs that are using the platform of special meetings, which are traditionally neutral, for political arguments.
“There were some cases that took advantage of these meetings for inappropriate expressions,” he said.
“I understand the tool of interruption here, but I don’t think that it is an international parliamentarian culture, it is a Knesset culture,” Edelstein said, expressing his disdain of using it in special meetings. “I suggest considering in such cases to remove Knesset members from the meeting after one calling to order [and not three as usual].
Because of these incidents, I found myself once asking world leaders to avoid speaking in front of the plenum because I was afraid it would be disgraceful,” he said.
Other members of the panel and MKs that attended the discussion have voiced their concerns and suggested ways of dealing with the problem.
“It seems that some MKs do not see Tuesdays [in which most of the special plenum meetings take place] as working days at the Knesset,” said coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud). “We should consider revoking salaries from them.”
MK Sharren Haskel (Likud) said that when it comes to public image, the plenum is the face of the Knesset. “We should prevent MKs from interrupting during a speech – especially when it is delivered by a foreign leader,” she said.
MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) claimed that interrupting is a customary tool to protest in the parliament, even if it is a special event. “We are in a parliament, not in a cathedral,” he said. “Every plenum event is a parliamentarian event and every interruption is a legitimate protest tool, even if it is to a speech of a president or a foreign leader.”