It is time for the Knesset to put the House in order

The Knesset is in danger of becoming void of meaning.

Knesset opposition cries out against cancellation of to probe Netanyahu on Submarine Affair after results positive (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN - SHMULIK GROSSMAN)
Knesset opposition cries out against cancellation of to probe Netanyahu on Submarine Affair after results positive
The Knesset is not in good shape. The fiasco that took place in the plenum on Wednesday serves nobody well. Let’s look at what happened: a bill proposed by Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg to establish a parliamentary committee of inquiry into Case 3000 – the Submarine Affair – to investigate possible wrongdoing by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu momentarily passed, 25 to 23 votes, before the Knesset speaker demanded a repeat vote, by roll call, a lengthier process calling on each MK to vote by name. The bill was then defeated, 44 to 0 after the opposition walked out of the plenum in protest, crying “shame, shame.”
Deputy Speaker Mansour Abbas (Joint List) had initiated a regular electronic vote declaring “we’re voting” in a soft voice, which coalition MKs said was not clearly audible in the plenum. As the voting began, coalition chairman Miki Zohar (Likud) approached Abbas and demanded a roll-call vote. Zohar claims he asked for the roll-call vote before Abbas had initiated electronic voting.
As the results of the electronic vote appeared on the board, Zohar immediately asked for a repeat vote, this time going by roll call. In the meantime, the cabinet meeting, where many of the ministers were gathered, was suspended, and the ministers raced to the plenum, which was in an uproar.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin was among those who said he did not hear the initial call to vote, and in any case was waiting for the roll call. Abbas later told Levin that he did not hear the request for a roll call and agreed that the vote should have been canceled, while, as The Jerusalem Post’s Gil Hoffman reported, Zohar admitted that he asked for the roll-call vote only because he failed to bring a majority of coalition MKs to vote.
The Knesset interim legal adviser Sagit Afik ruled that the repeat vote was permissible – but the damage to the already weakened Knesset had nonetheless been done.
Calling the cancellation of the vote “a stain on democracy,” Zandberg said she would petition the Supreme Court. The retroactive cancellation of a vote empties of meaning the entire parliamentary voting process that lies at the heart of democracy, Zandberg said.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) said red lines had been crossed and “[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s men fired on democracy from close range.”
It should be kept in mind that even had the initial vote for a parliamentary probe been retained, it is highly unlikely the bill would have gathered enough support to pass through the committee stages and further votes in the plenum.
Unfortunately, neither the coalition nor the opposition can be cleared of blame for the current nadir in the status of the Knesset and the situation in politics in general. The Knesset is indeed in danger of becoming void of meaning.
On the one hand, there are MKs run to the courts looking to overturn Knesset legislation and on the other, there are MKs looking to override the Supreme Court and place the Knesset beyond scrutiny and review.
The fact that the country went through three rounds of elections in less than a year, with a significant amount of party hopping by elected MKs, does not help. Neither does the general atmosphere in which MKs – newcomers looking to make themselves known and veterans hoping to retain public awareness – are prone to work just for a headline or a tweet.
The tragedy is that there are hardworking MKs doing the jobs they were elected to do, often quietly in committee meetings, and their work and reputations are also affected by the antics elsewhere in the House.
Israel is not the only democracy that is suffering from problems of this sort, but it is in a state of crisis.
A quick look at the role of parliaments shows that the main functions are to supervise the role of the government, pass legislation and debate the pressing issues of the day.
In all these functions, the Knesset is currently receiving a fail grade.
The Israeli electorate deserves better. MKs across the political spectrum need to realize that respect is not given freely – it must be earned, and that cannot be done through parliamentary tricks and antics.  
It is time for the Knesset to put the House in order.