Rivlin attacks Neeman, Livni's plan for gov't reform

Rivlin attacks Neeman, L

Two days after media reports that opposition leader Tzipi Livni of Kadima and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman met to draw up a plan for promoting governmental reform, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin was expected Thursday morning to attack the two for what he claimed was an effort to bypass the legislature. In remarks prepared for delivery today, the speaker will say that, "The initiatives to change the system that appear from time to time, like the recent one, were intended, directly or indirectly to weaken the Knesset. Without a constitution, there is no substitute for parliamentary democracy in Israel." An advance copy of the speech was obtained by The Jerusalem Post. "There are those who are counting on a short public memory and 'forget' that initiatives of this type, like direct election of the prime minister, practically buried the political parties and government. Any idea of a presidential regime, which is not backed up by a constitution on the basis of a wide consensus - is destined to pour problems upon us."   A report in Yediot Aharonot published Wednesday claimed that in their Tuesday meeting, Livni and Neeman had formed a united front to change the political system, but the story did not specify how the two -together with Knesset Law Committee Chairman MK David Rotem - would reconcile the vast differences among their approaches. Livni has said in the past that she supports electoral reform but has not offered details other than decreasing the power of smaller parties, whereas Rotem is the main Knesset advocate of a presidential system, and Neeman supports a more moderate approach. Rivlin is also set to criticize an initiative by the ad hoc Forum to Stabilize the Governmental System which the veteran parliamentarian said was backed by politicians and members of the wealthy Strauss and Nazrian families. Rivlin was expected to launch his attack against the initiatives during a day of seminars at Tel Aviv University's Political Science Department devoted to governmental reform. Livni and Neeman, as well as Professor Gideon Doron, a member of the Forum were all expected to be in attendance. At the Thursday conference, attendees were expected to be presented with a study which argues that over 80 percent of Israelis believe the current system needs to be revamped. Rivlin plans to elaborate on his idea of a constitution that would be widely accepted and speak out against makeshift modifications of "Basic Laws" that fail to provide necessary checks and balances. Absent such protections, a presidential system could become a de-facto dictatorship, he will say. Sources close to the Knesset speaker said that he would not limit his attacks to Livni and Neeman, but also criticize the so-called governance laws that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has tried - and in certain cases succeeded - to push through the Knesset during the summer session aimed at partly reforming the political system.