(photo credit: Associated Press)
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has seen good sessions and bad ones in his two
decades in the Knesset, and so he can speak from a position of experience in
characterizing the summer session, which concluded Wednesday, as a
“The initial constitution of this Knesset was very
promising and thus, reflecting back, I can only express disappointment,” Rivlin
said in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
who came here with strong records ‘learned’ how to work in the Knesset and came
to the conclusion that to stand out, steady legislative work over time wasn’t
enough and they needed to turn to gimmicks instead.
“That was even more
true for MKs who before they were elected – and even afterward – nobody heard of
and nobody knew were here. They too came to the conclusion that their only
recourse was to initiate gimmicks and sensational headlines.”
Knesset, said Rivlin, is contending with “developing tensions that have been
boiling for 50 years now,” most importantly relations between Jews and Arabs and
the growing gaps between rich and poor throughout the country.
issue is naturally very emotional and there are outbursts in which Jewish and
Arab MKs use the conflict for personal gain at the expense of the national good.
MKs on either side gain political currency at their opponents’ expense, and the
only one that this does not serve is the country itself.”
The way in
which the arguments between Jews and Arabs are played out within the Knesset,
said Rivlin, is crucial in determining Israel’s status in the world, as well as
shaping political developments throughout the Middle East. “There are things
that we will never agree upon, but we must show that we can overcome the
conflict while maintaining an Israel that is both a Jewish and democratic
Increased tensions between Jewish and Arab Israelis, said Rivlin,
will only increase the international sense of legitimacy for pan-Islamic and
fundamentalist movements that call for Israel’s destruction.
due respect, the burden of maintaining this relationship lies upon the majority
and if it doesn’t take the situation into its hands and understand its role, we
have failed,” he explained. “I am not just talking about grabbing headlines
through foul language or personal hits below the belt, but also the use of
exaggerated nationalism for personal gain.”
Rivlin cited, in addition to
the heated debates that characterized the session, a series of bills that were,
in his eyes, designed to make more of a political statement and to bypass the
role of the government rather than to strengthen the political system.
spared none of his famously sharp tone in addressing the specific issue of MK
Haneen Zoabi, whose participation in the May Gaza flotilla grabbed headlines for
most of the legislative session.
“The Zoabi affair was an error in two
senses. The first was on principle; there cannot be a situation in which MKs
judge their colleagues and rule on their cases. If such a thing existed – not on
an ethical level, 61 would cancel out 59 and then the 120 would become 61, and
then they would continue to break and divide until the legislature consisted of
two people,” Rivlin complained. “On a personal level, Zoabi’s behavior made my
blood boil, but it is exactly in situations such as those in which the strength
of our democratic values are tested.”
The second error, he said, was a
tactical one on the part of Zoabi’s parliamentary opponents. “Before this
session, nobody had a clue who she was. She was completely anonymous.
wherever she goes, she is now an internationally recognized
Looking forward, Rivlin does not see quieter days ahead for the
Knesset – or for Israel.
“Overdoing is never good, but now, if it garners
support in the eyes of your voters, the impact of the matter to the
less important,” he bemoaned. “That is the dominant trend and has come
fruition fully in the current government.”
The next test for the Knesset,
he said, was likely to come before the end of the recess, when the
building moratorium in West Bank settlements comes to an end on the
26. “The day falls in the middle of Succot, a great time of celebration
On that day, the freeze order expires, and anyone who
wants a new one must request it from the government and it will not be
to convince them this time around. Such a request will bring us to a new
situation in which Likud itself will be tested and Prime Minister
Netanyahu will also be tested by factions that are to the right of the