Itzik hopes to put public within a dial tone of their MKs

Knesset speaker to institute annual public telethon for Knesset members to answer citizens' requests.

dalia itzik 298 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
dalia itzik 298 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Get ready to dial 1-800-CALL-YOUR-MK. That probably won't be the number, but that will be the message when Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik institutes what she hopes will become an annual public telethon for MKs. According to the initiative that is still in its planning stages, dozens of MKs will man telephone lines together in a large room at the Knesset, receiving calls from citizens asking for help with their problems. Ordinary citizens would be able to request any specific MK or an MK with a particular background or expertise. Itzik wants the telethon to take place as soon as possible, ideally by the summer. "The goal is to strengthen the connection between the elected officials and their constituencies," a source close to Itzik said. "We want the MKs to be listeners, to maintain open channels with the voters and to be an address for the public. We hope this will encourage the MKs to do more to help people. It's good for the MKs, for the public and definitely for the Knesset." The initiative is one of several Itzik is planning to restore the ties between the Knesset members and the people who elect them. She also wants MKs to be required to visit schools once a year, either where they live or where they themselves were educated. National Union MK Benny Elon, who is the incoming chairman of the Knesset Public Complaints Committee, praised the telethon idea. He said that while many MKs were already doing a great deal to serve their constituencies, MKs could learn much from congressmen in the United States. "In the US, they have districts and people know that their representative will help them," Elon said. "We don't have districts but people can come to any of us for help. It shouldn't be a one-time show. But it will add to the accountability we feel to our constituencies." United Torah Judaism MK Ya'acov Cohen agreed with Elon that holding a telethon once a year was not enough. He recently proposed a bill requiring MKs to meet with their constituents no less than 30 times a year in locations across the country. Cohen personally makes a point of meeting with his haredi constituents more than 100 times a year. He takes out advertisements in the haredi press informing the public what city he will be in and when he will be available for meetings with ordinary citizens. "I think the least we can do as MKs is meet people at least a couple of times a month," Cohen said. "The public has lost its faith in their elected officials and in most cases, it's not justified. Many MKs are working very hard and are honest people. This is a better solution than instituting regional elections, and it's the perfect thing to do to restore the public's faith in the Knesset." •