Sunday, October 11, 2009

Netanyahu, Rivlin, Livni, Peres speeches set to open Knesset's winter session

(Jpost).The Knesset itself is set to be at the center of debate when Israel's parliament begin its winter session on Monday morning, featuring a full schedule of committee meetings as well as speeches by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres during the first plenum session in the afternoon.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to open the Knesset's winter session on Monday with a diplomatic speech that, despite two meetings in the last three days with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, is not expected to include an announcement of a renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians.

A good part of the speech is expected to deal not with the Mitchell mission, but rather with the Goldstone Commission report. Netanyahu has said repeatedly that the document, which accuses Israel of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead, will harm the diplomatic process, because it calls into question the legitimacy of Israel acting in self-defense, something that will make it unlikely for Israel to be willing to take risks for peace.

Rivlin, an outspoken proponent of maintaining the status of the legislature in Israeli political society, plans to using his speech as an opportunity to lambaste legislators for inappropriate and unparliamentary behavior.

Sources close to the speaker said that his remarks, which he had already written, will call for a "fundamental change in the political discourse."

"We must maintain in the strictest possible manner a minimal amount of a culture of discussion," Rivlin wrote in the speech, "and if it is necessary, stern steps should be taken to do so."

He emphasized that he was not trying to impose censorship on content, but rather on style."If the Knesset wants to renew its position in the public debate, it must develop a culture of appropriate dialogue," he said.

"Have we not sinned through verbal violence?" asked the veteran MK, paraphrasing the Yom Kippur liturgy. "Have we really, innocently, allowed the Knesset to serve as a public platform? Or have we turned the discussion into unbearable altercations? Have we not reached the situation in which the Knesset is losing relevance because it is impossible to hold a serious discussion?"