Sunday, October 11, 2009

PM to open Knesset winter session with Diplomatic speech, Knesset speaker blasts culture of 'cacophonous debate'

(HAaretz).The Knesset will open its winter session this afternoon with a series of speeches from President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

Netanyahu intends on taking advantage of the occasion to give a speech "critical, clear and harsh toward the Palestinians," said an official in the Prime Minister's Bureau. Netanyahu will try in his speech to unify the coalition around his political world view, said the official. The speech is expected to last about 25 minutes, but that depends on how much MKs interrupt during the speech.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) is very worried about MKs crying out and interfering with Netanyahu's speech. Rivlin says that in recent years, prime ministers have preferred not to reveal their plans to the Knesset due to the inappropriate behavior of the MKs.

"The cacophonous debate in the Knesset in which we hear cries instead of claims and heckling instead of speeches, has led the prime ministers over the past 15 years to make excuses that they prefer non-parliamentary platforms to present their plans," Rivlin told Haaretz. "The Knesset is the place where decisions are made and if prime ministers move their affairs to non-parliamentary platforms, which are also afflicted with matters of the connection between wealth and power, we could possibly find ourselves as a parliamentary democracy are [comitting suicide]."

Rivlin says he understands prime ministers who choose to keep away from the Knesset plenum because of the MKs' behavior: "There are procedures we have instituted, in which 40 MKs can require the prime minister to come and give his opinion on a specific matter. But the prime minister barely manages to go up [to the podium] and speak, and he is already under a flood of heckling, shouting and even obscenities. That is the same for the opposition leader: You see heckling from the coalition benches, even from the cabinet benches, from the same cabinet members who only yesterday were excellent and upstanding MKs, and now continue to heckle," said Rivlin.

Rivlin thinks the time has come for a policy of "zero tolerance" toward MKs who disturb the prime minister or head of the opposition. "The Knesset needs to show that debate is possible here. Therefore, for speeches required by law, such as the prime minister's speech at the first session of every assembly, there should be no calling out."