Knesset hosts birthday 'bash'

MKs criticize Knesset at 58th anniversary; Olmert urges members to keep investigating corruption.

knesset 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
knesset 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As the Knesset marked its 58th anniversary this week with a number of celebrations, few lawmakers were in a celebratory mood Monday as they criticized the institution for failing to age gracefully. The Knesset spent its birthday being attacked by a number of officials including the prime minister, a retired supreme court justice and the Knesset Speaker and Acting President Dalia Itzik. "Let us be honest here. The Knesset needs serious reform," Itzik told the plenum. "The rules we operate by were created 40 years ago and we are now living in a very different country with different needs. It bothers me that of the three branches of government, the Knesset is the weakest... That our committee rooms are empty and that the plenum is sparse. Yes, even today the Knesset is empty." Only one-third of the MKs were present for the birthday celebrations in the Knesset Monday, while several committees cancelled their celebrations at the last moment. Justice Mishael Cheshin, the retired deputy Supreme Court president, lashed out at the Knesset for failing to fulfill its duty of "checking" on the government. "This hurts the immunity of democracy... when laws initiated by the government pass rapidly and by guillotine," said Cheshin. Itzik told the Knesset that in the coming weeks she would present a series of reforms to the Knesset House Committee. "We must begin the process of reform," said Itzik. "We can all criticize but now is the time for action." Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also commented on the need for reforms in the Knesset, while urging MKs to probe and investigate every cause brought to their attention in order to "fix the world." "Don't stop investigating, don't stop examining, don't stop aspiring to fix the world we live in," said Olmert, who faces a number of police investigations. Olmert also called on Knesset members to "protect the institution of the law, on the citadel of democracy, along with the Supreme Court." Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu called for new elections, saying the current Knesset no longer enjoyed public support. "Without the trust of the public, the Knesset loses its moral foundation," he said.