Knesset Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse chairwoman Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) removed an Anti-Drug Authority official from a meeting Sunday for mocking her and questioning her ability to lead the panel.
The incident took place at a meeting to discuss the government’s decision, which appears in the 2015-2016 budget, to move the ADA ’s activities under the Public Security Ministry’s authority.
The ADA Public Council chairman Zvi Hendel, a former National Union MK, said the Finance Ministry made the decision without the approval of the relevant ministries.
“Someone who has no clue wrote that NIS 20 million can be saved. They should completely cancel the ADA and save more money – but it will cost the country hundreds of millions. The ADA will continue to exist for a simple reason: [dissolving it] makes no sense at all. It is against all economic reason,” Hendel said.
Eitan Gorney, the ADA ’s interim director-general, called the budget cut an ambush and said he was not consulted before the decision was made.
Zandberg demanded to know the salary being paid to Yair Geller, the ADA ’s director- general who has been on paid leave since December because he is a suspect in the corruption case involving former deputy interior minister Faina Kirschenbaum and others.
ADA officials said Geller was still being paid his full salary eight months later because he had unused vacation and sick days.
Hendel refused to respond to the question, instead questioning how Zandberg, who has admitted to smoking cannabis and advocates for its legalization, could be head of a committee that is against drugs. Hendel claimed that Zandberg is in favor of “smoking all kinds of drugs,” though she has only come out in favor of marijuana.Zandberg kicks official out of Knesset committee meeting for mocking her
Hendel’s comment was met with applause, and Zandberg said anyone who clapped must leave the room. Hendel, however, said “good for everyone who clapped.”
Zandberg continued to insist that anyone who applauded leave, and Hendel asked why.
“That’s what I decided,” she said.
“Well, I decided that everyone who clapped should stay,” he responded.
“If you think that the body of which you are chairman can give an eight-month vacation and not be accountable to the question ‘how high is the salary and how long the vacation will continue…’ and you think you will be applauded for your provocations, you are wrong,” Zandberg stated. “It’s very simple.”
“If you think that someone [who] is for legalizing drugs can be head of committee, then…,” Hendel said, shrugging exaggeratedly.
Hendel said he had “no clue” what Geller’s salary is, and a spokesman for the ADA said he could give her an answer tomorrow.
“Excuse me? Wait a minute, wait a minute,” Zandberg said, and Hendel chimed in after her: “Wait a minute, wait a minute.”
At that point, Zandberg demanded that Hendel leave the meeting.
“Never in my life have I seen a person show such disrespect to a committee chairwoman in a chauvinistic and degrading way and I am asking you to leave the meeting,” she declared.
Hendel began: “And I have never seen a committee chairwoman who –” “So you will continue not seeing. Goodbye,” Zandberg shot back.
“Making fun of an MK, a committee chairwoman is something that is not acceptable in the Knesset,” she added after Hendel left. “Not in my committee. My dignity as an MK is the dignity of the public.”
Earlier in the meeting, Knesset House Committee chairman David Bitan (Likud) said he will not allow the ADA ’s dissolution to be passed as part of the Economic Arrangements Bill (EAB), a hefty piece of legislation that is passed in tandem with the budget, until he sees a clear plan on how the new arrangement is more efficient.
“Not only am I not convinced that [the ADA ] has to be dismantled, I think it has to be strengthened,” Bitan said.
“It is completely clear that this does not have to be in the EAB.”
Zandberg also says she didn’t think that hasty moves need to be made via the EAB, and that this should be discussed seriously.
At the same time, she said the ADA should examine the salaries of its officials and that it should be working to fight addiction and misuses of drugs and alcohol.
“If you would direct your energies and resources towards the right battles, public relations and education, rehabilitation and treatment, the ADA would not become someone’s political baby. Maybe this is the time to significantly change its activities,” Zandberg suggested.