sraeli lawmakers attend a vote on a bill at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem February 6, 2017.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Lawmakers can be kicked out of the plenum for disturbing a foreign leader’s speech to the Knesset, according to a rule inspired by US President Donald Trump that MKs voted to approve Monday night.
After Trump’s visit to Israel in May, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said that the US president’s staff considered having him address the legislature, but backed down from the idea after they were told by Israelis that there was no guarantee that he would not be heckled.
Subsequently, Edelstein asked the Knesset House Committee to change the rules so that there would be less of a deterrent to foreign leaders giving speeches to the Knesset.
The new rule of decorum states that, unlike during regular Knesset proceedings when MKs are removed from the plenum after three calls to order, lawmakers can be dismissed after the first disturbance when a foreign visitor is speaking.
Knesset House Committee chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud) was repeatedly interrupted by opposition MKs during his presentation of the change.
“It was said that the president of the United States didn’t come to the Knesset, part of the reasons were really that maybe the reactions in this House to other presidents and prime ministers [dissuaded him],” Kisch said. “I’m saying one thing, if this is really necessary – and we saw it in the past, we saw behavior that was sometimes beyond what is accepted and respectful to that representative – we should give the speaker the ability to use his judgment to prevent serious violations. I think this is an appropriate change.”
In May, Edelstein asked MKs “to dream with me for 10 minutes, that this house would not look like it does now, but it would be full of people, 150-160 people in this plenum, because all the MKs and ministers and former MKs and ministers are here, the mezzanine is packed, and dozens of TV crews from around the world are here for President Trump’s speech.
“Think how just because of five, six, or seven MKs for whom 20 seconds of so-called glory are more important than the dignity of the Knesset, our parliament, and of the State of Israel, all this didn’t happen,” he said. “It’s sad, but that’s the reality.”
Lawmakers disrupted visits by several world leaders in recent years. Arab MKs heckled then-Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper in January 2014, telling him he should join the Likud, and walked out on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the special plenum session in honor of then-UK prime minister David Cameron in March 2014.
When then-European Parliament president Martin Schulz addressed the Knesset in February 2014, he falsely claimed Israel was denying the Palestinians water, prompting Education Minister Naftali Bennett to interrupt him and walk out along with others from his Bayit Yehudi party.