Rivlin stops plenum meeting to demand Knesset respect

MKs "must adopt the new ethical code before the public’s confidence completely deteriorates," says Knesset speaker.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin 311 (photo credit: Courtesy: Knesset Channel)
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin 311
(photo credit: Courtesy: Knesset Channel)
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday stopped a plenum meeting and demanded that politicians show proper respect for the legislature.
In an unusual move, Rivlin requested from MKs to stop presenting their parliamentary questions, until the government “fulfills its duty in the Knesset” by listening to and answering the inquiries. At the time, the only minister in the plenum was Justice Minister Ya’acov Neeman.
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Fifteen minutes later, the discussion continued when Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias (Shas) entered the plenum.
Shortly before he stopped the plenum meeting, Rivlin told a group of IDF intelligence officers visiting the Knesset that there has been a long line of inappropriate incidents in the Knesset lately.
“The cup of water that was splashed in the face of MK Ghaleb Majadle (Labor) is not a lone event in a sea of disrespectful parliamentary behavior,” he said.
“This is the climax of a chain of events: spraying air fresheners in the plenum, cracking a whip in the prime minister’s direction, waving black flags, bringing a cup of cottage cheese to the prime minister’s table and an attempt to violently stop an MK [Haneen Zoabi (Balad)] from giving a speech in the plenum.”
All of the aforementioned incidents were caused by Kadima MKs, except for MK Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu), who splashed water at Majadle and attempted to block Zoabi.
Instead of MKs seeing themselves as serving the public that elected them, they see the public, the media, the Knesset and its committees as serving their political needs, Rivlin stated.
“The security-diplomatic situation or the socioeconomic situation are a bit less interesting than the possibility of getting a headline because of a gimmick or populist trick to some of the people in this house, or maybe some of them just can’t control their limbs because of an outbreak of emotion,” he added.
Instead of serving as an example to Israeli society on how to hold a respectable debate between different ideologies and societal groups, Rivlin said, the Knesset has become a site of arguments like in a public market.
The Knesset speaker explained that a new ethical code was drafted for the Knesset less than a year ago, which is meant to “provide answers to these kinds of actions that stain and ridicule the entire Knesset” and also give the Knesset Ethics Committee the option of harsher punishments.
For example, the ethics committee would be able to suspend MKs for up to six months and even dock their salaries, punishments that could serve as a deterrent against inappropriate behavior.
However, many MKs submitted reservations on the bill that would “empty it of content and completely castrate it,” the Knesset speaker stated.
According to Rivlin, one of the possible explanations for the wave of misbehavior among MKs is that many predict that elections are near.
However, he added, MKs must not give the Knesset a bad name.
“The Knesset’s image is in a deep crisis, and the public’s faith in it is constantly dropping,” Rivlin said.
“The Knesset must adopt the new ethical code before the public’s confidence will completely deteriorate.”