Do better, Knesset

We hope that the next Knesset will make us proud, because this one was, more often than not, embarrassing.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein
The 20th Knesset officially came to a close on Wednesday, when it voted to approve its dispersal, and we will only know the makeup of the 21st Knesset in April. We hope that the next Knesset will make us proud, because this one was, more often than not, embarrassing.
This Knesset had its ups and downs, like any other, but it seems like there were more low points than highs, especially when it came to the lawmakers’ conduct.
Only 27% of citizens trust the Knesset, according to an Israel Democracy Institute poll conducted this year, and it’s no wonder.
There was one embarrassing incident after another over the past four years. There was the time when an MK defaced a colleague’s car with lipstick for parking in her spot, or a lawmaker hosting an event in which she rapturously sang a duet with Eyal Golan, who has been convicted of tax evasion and accused of sexual misconduct.
There are the lawmakers who called parents of soldiers killed in action rude and liars for criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and there was the member of Knesset who implied a female colleague slept her way to a senior position in the IDF. Or the MKs who waved protest signs during US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the parliament, leading to their ouster from the chamber.
There are lawmakers whose conduct veered into the possibly criminal. Two resigned over sexual assault accusations, and several, including Netanyahu and Interior Minister Arye Deri (who already served prison time for bribery), have been investigated for alleged corruption.
Whole pages can be written about the antics of Likud MK Oren Hazan, a source of regular scandals in the legislature. The Hazan saga began shortly after this Knesset was sworn in, with reports that he helped customers at a casino in Bulgaria procure prostitutes and drugs.
Hazan let his personality shine in the national assembly. He made fun of Yesh Atid MK Karin Elharar, who has muscular dystrophy, for having trouble pressing the button to vote. He called MK Ilan Gilon, who is physically disabled, “half a man.” He called Zionist Union MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin “subhuman,” sparking a shouting match in the Knesset parking lot, which was caught on video. He calls Arab MKs “terrorists” on a regular basis, and he’s known to pick on female politicians.
On Wednesday, Hazan closed out the session by calling MK Pnina Tamnu-Shata, who was born in Ethiopia, a “token immigrant.” She responded by saying she is a “proud black Israeli” and that he should be ashamed of himself.
Then there’s Balad, a party in the Joint List that repeatedly shames the Knesset with its grandstanding and incitement. MK Haneen Zoabi is unlikely to return, and the parliament will be better off, between her joining the Gaza flotilla in which other participants clashed with IDF commandos, her applauding Hamas rockets launched at civilians and her declaration that IDF soldiers are murderers.
Balad also featured Basel Ghattas, who had to resign as member of Knesset as part of a plea deal because he smuggled cell phones to Palestinian terrorists in prison. He himself is currently serving a prison sentence.
There is no shortage of examples from the Knesset of what government is not supposed to be like. It should not be a circus. It should not be a place where people call each other names. It should not be a place where members curse and throw things at each other.
This election is an opportunity for the parties to choose representatives who are role models for our children. It is a chance to turn the Knesset into a place we can look up to and view its members as our leaders, as they are meant to be. The Knesset has not lived up to that role in recent years.
About a third of MKs do not come back after every election. Let’s hope the ones that return and the new lawmakers who join them, make us proud of our legislature.