Rivlin aims to fix coalition's parliamentary disadvantage

Speaker seeking ways to enable abundant Knesset committees' functioning, as 30 ministers, nine deputies currently precluded from voting in them.

Rivlin gets gavel 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Rivlin gets gavel 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin will support the Likud's efforts to change the way the legislature's committees are run, to make up for the coalition's parliamentary disadvantage caused by the appointment of 30 ministers and nine deputy ministers. The changes Rivlin will push include reducing the number of Knesset committees and allowing deputy ministers to vote in them, except on matters pertaining to their ministries. Ministers and deputy ministers are currently precluded from voting in Knesset committees to maintain separation between the legislative and executive branches. Rivlin said the changes were necessary, because lawmakers who were members of multiple committees that met simultaneously could not be in two places at once. There were too many committee meetings where only the chairman of the committee attended, he said. "One of the challenges we will face in this Knesset is fixing the problem of not having enough MKs for committees," Rivlin said in a briefing for parliamentary reporters at his office. "The founders of the state deemed 10 committees sufficient and there is no reason for there to be so many more today when there are not enough MKs for them." But the opposition said Rivlin was not acting to improve the functioning of the Knesset but to make up for the inability of the coalition to function. They accused the Knesset speaker, who is supposed to act apolitically, of helping his Likud allies. "Those initiatives are intended to ensure the survival of this government while doing unprecedented damage to the Knesset," Kadima faction chairman Yoel Hasson said. "We will fight against them with all our might. Rivlin should join our fight against these changes rather than advocating for them." Another challenge the coalition will face is the 2009 state budget, which must be passed within 45 days of Tuesday's swearing-in of the government. Rivlin said he would support the coalition's efforts to pass an amendment giving them more time. "The budget cannot be passed in 45 days, because we are on recess for most of them due to Pessah," he said. Rivlin said his other goals included drafting an ethics code with teeth for MKs and updating outdated bureaucracy. For instance, the law currently says that coalition agreements must be filed physically, which he said should be able to be done by e-mail. He also said it was often a waste of time to hold no-confidence votes every Monday when there was no chance of them passing. Learning from the British House of Commons, Rivlin said he would like Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address the Knesset regularly and answer questions from MKs, but he acknowledged that Netanyahu was unlikely to agree. "The head of the opposition was in favor of this a few months ago, but I am not sure that the prime minister will be, even though they are the same person," Rivlin said. In Rivlin's previous tenure as Knesset speaker, during the 16th Knesset, there were several scandals involving poor behavior by MKs. At the conclusion of his term, he asked the public to elect better MKs. Rivlin expressed optimism that the new Knesset would indeed be better than his previous one. "There are wonderful new MKs who realize that they are emissaries of the public and I hope they don't get ruined," he said. "I hope the MKs who stopped being ministers last night are ready to contribute."