Rivlin: 16th Knesset bad to the core

Calls on Israeli public to elect MKs who respect their positions.

Calling the 16th Knesset the "most vilified in the history of the state," Speaker Reuven Rivlin marked the last day of the session Wednesday by lambasting the behavior of its lawmakers. "This Knesset was nothing to be proud of," Rivlin said. "My friends, vote for more decent Knesset members." Rivlin noted that while the majority of MKs "glorified" Israel through their work as legislators, as many as 40 MKs had not respected the office they held, a reference to the number who have been cited on various charges of corruption. "One bad apple can spoil an entire barrel," he said. "And 40 bad apples can do it even faster." Although the speaker refused to name those bad apples, he told reporters that the low point of the Knesset was when he decided to allow police officers inside to investigate suspicions of "double voting" by MKs Yehiel Hazan and Michael Gorolovsky in a plenum vote in 2003. Rivlin's high point, however, was the moment when the plenum approved the unilateral disengagement. "MKs put aside their differences and prevented a civil war," said Rivlin. "Even though thousands of Israeli citizens would be forced to leave their homes, and even though a few MKs in the plenum would be forced to do so, it was passed. It was a great stride for democracy." Rivlin also lauded the work of Likud whip Gideon Sa'ar, who "made his mark" on the Knesset. Wednesday was the 16th Knesset's last day in session before it goes into recess prior to the March 28 elections. It was a particularly busy day in the plenum, with 46 bills presented. In the last few hours, the Knesset approved a bill proposing an additional NIS 900,000 for ministers in an administrative procedure. The Knesset also approved the first reading of a bill by MK Eliezer Cohen (National Union) to compensate victims of polio despite government opposition to the funds required. Attempts to pass the Polio Compensation Law over the last 11 years have been unsuccessful. A bill finalizing reparations to the heirs of Holocaust victims and restricting grants to businesses who exceed pollution quotas were also approved. Rivlin was not the only legislator to blast the 16th Knesset. MK Yossi Sarid called it "the worst in Israeli history." Some pointed to memorable cases of parliamentary misconduct during its term, which included accusations of illegal political nominations, illegal funding of political campaigns, double-voting, and bribery. MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud) has been charged with making illegal political appointments during his tenure as environment minister from 2001 to 2003. MK Omri Sharon (Likud) may face a prison term and suspension from the Knesset after he pleaded guilty to laundering illegal funds for his father's 1999 election campaign. MK Nomi Blumenthal (Likud) was charged with bribery and disrupting her own trial after she allegedly paid the hotel bills of Likud central committee members in return for their votes in the Likud primaries. MKs Yehiel Hazan and Michael Gorlovsky (Likud) were indicted in the 2003 double-voting scandal when they allegedly voted in place of absent Likud members during a Knesset vote. Last month, Hazan was caught on camera removing evidence linked to his trial from the Knesset warehouse. MK Yair Peretz (Shas) admitted to fraudulently obtaining an academic degree. MK Salah Tarif (Labor) has appealed his 2003 conviction on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for having bribed an Interior Ministry official to grant Israeli citizenship to a Palestinian friend.