The Knesset was determined to set a public example Wednesday, with the plenum starting 10 minutes early in order to ensure that MKs would be filmed leaving the hall 10 minutes later, at 11 a.m., when the alarm sounded as part of the nationwide Turning Point 4 exercise. But even the parliament’s most seasoned spin doctors could not have choreographed a more quintessentially Israeli – and quintessentially Knesset-like – drill than the one played out seconds later in the secure room to which the MKs were evacuated.
Led by a Yariv Levin (Likud), opposition and coalition MKs came filing out of the plenum, as air-raid sirens blasted through the building followed by repeated announcements that Israel had been attacked by missiles.
A cluster of MKs, including Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud), Levin, Yohanan Plessner (Kadima), Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta’al) and Masud Gnaim (UAL-Ta’al), stood opposite a sign pasted on the wall pointing out that the windowless, low-ceilinged chamber was a “safe area,” while MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) quickly headed, together with a number of Arab MKs, directly for the glassed-in smoking area, where the frequent ideological adversaries sat chatting and laughing.
“There’s a rocket attack,” MK Arye Eldad (National Union) said to Sanaa sarcastically. “Why aren’t you standing on the roof clapping?”
Orlev gave Sanaa a jovial hug and suggested that as long as he stood next to the Arab politician, he would be safe, as there was little chance that enemy shells would target the outspoken MK.
“I’m happy to provide security for Jews,” responded Sanaa. “When Orlev hugs me, he feels secure. I’m not a source of security concern but rather the opposite – they feel that with me, they won’t be harmed.”
Sanaa added that “the only real defense against missiles is peace, real peace.”
Amnon Cohen (Shas) sprang into action at a coffee machine, handing out steaming cups of espresso to all takers.
“The Knesset, as part of the nation, is taking part in the drill
together with all of Israel’s citizens,” said Rivlin. “If I knew that
all of Israel was as prepared as the Knesset is, I would be much
calmer. Jews, Arabs, Zionists and non-Zionists are all participating in
this drill out of an understanding that the fate of the State of Israel
impacts each and every one of us.”
But within minutes, the all-clear announcement was broadcast through
the room, and the MKs returned to the plenum. There, they picked up the
debate where they had left off, resuming the usual routine of yelling,
cat-calls and mutual condemnations.
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