Fifty MKs-to-be from across the political spectrum participated in a crash course in legislation and ethics Sunday, two days before they are scheduled to be sworn in to Israel’s 19th Knesset. In addition to technical talks, pointers were given by the outgoing Knesset speaker, Reuven Rivlin, and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who, as the house’s most veteran lawmaker, will act as speaker until the formation of the next government.
The newbies heard from Rivlin and Ben-Eliezer about the procedural rules of committees and how to introduce a bill, and got a glimpse of how business is handled on a day-to-day level around the halls of the Knesset.
Knesset Secretary Yardena Miller-Horovitz provided the new parliamentarians with a brief overview of their new workplace, while legal adviser to the Knesset Eyal Yanon taught the novice lawmakers about the legislative process.
Yanon also discussed with the newcomers what they’re allowed and not allowed to do, in terms of ethics and the immunity that will be granted them. For example, the incoming parliamentarians learned, using their position to demand an upgrade on a flight is forbidden.
The cadre of future legislators constitute the largest number of new faces to enter the Knesset in one go since the establishment of Israel in 1948.
“There has never been such a large turnover among MKs after a single election,” Rivlin told them.
The public, he continued, has proven that it closely monitors its representatives and knows how to replace those who don’t serve as they should.
“Know that the public is examining and testing you,” he warned.
Ben-Eliezer noted that he was first sworn in as an MK in 1984, a year before Stav Shaffir — a newcomer from the Labor Party — was born. “I’m the last of the Mohicans,” the 77-year-old said.
Much has changed over the years, and there are differences between how legislators worked in the past and how they conduct themselves nowadays, Ben-Eliezer maintained, pointing at how he used to sit for hours in a library to find information, while the newcomers just “click on a button.”
After the talks, the fledgling lawmakers also got to sit in their plenum seats for the first time. Some joked that after the photo-op they could go back home, while others said they’d rather be sitting around the cabinet table.
The new politicians were also advised about safety procedures, and were told about the Knesset’s relationship with various news and social-media outlets.
Another aspect presented to the future legislators was the taxpayers’ bankroll for them. The newbies heard about their $10,000 (NIS 38,000) per-month salaries, as well as other perks, such as a spending allowance of up to $13,000 (NIS 49,000) per year for setting up offices outside the Knesset, the hiring of aides (they are each allowed to have two), and executive cars of their choice.
Michal Shmulovich contributed to this report.