Yariv Levin
Likud MK Yariv Levin
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After an acrimonious session, the Knesset House Committee voted yesterday to establish a group of Knesset members to examine the employment conditions - of Knesset members.

In fact there already is a watchdog committee charged with overseeing salaries in Knesset. That committee, a public one which discusses the employment terms of Israel's elected parliamentarians, is headed by Prof. Reuben Gronau. This new committee is also charged with studying the issue of parliamentary salaries, and making recommendations to the Gronau committee. In any case their proposals would be discussed by the House Committee.

The Knesset is on its Passover break, and many members of the House Committee had objected to holding a meeting on the topic - which is hardly an urgent matter - during the recess. Only eight of the 16 committee members bothered to show up for the meeting.

Five MKs voted in favor and two against the proposal to set up the sub-committee.

In the case of the new committee, the MKs will submit their final proposal to the Gronau Committee, but regardless of whether that committee agrees or not, the MKs will be able to bring their recommendations back to the House Committee for approval.

The five MKs who voted in favor were Knesset House Committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud ), David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ), Zeev Elkin (Likud ), Einat Wilf (Atzmaut ) and Avraham Michaeli (Shas ). Voting against were Eitan Cabel (Labor ) and Ilan Gilon (New Movement-Meretz ).

Members of the new subcommittee are Elkin, Michaeli, Rotem, Wilf, Meir Sheetrit (Kadima ) and Daniel Ben Simon (Labor ).

The committee was not given a brief for its work, but was told it could hear all proposals from MKs on the issues.

Cabel, Gilon and Rachel Adatto (Kadima ) demanded that the vote not be held during the Passover recess, which started March 30. Cabel proposed that the vote be put off until an in-depth discussion on the issue could be held during the summer session.

"It is inappropriate to hold such a session during the recess. All eyes are upon us, and even if it is correct [to change our conditions], things are being blown out of proportion," said Cabel. He asked to remove the matter from the agenda yesterday. Levin refused.

After Adatto asked what the hurry was, Levin said he could appoint the committee even without an official vote of the House Committee.

Gilon said the new committee would in practice be the MKs' union. "It is possible there are good intentions [in establishing the committee], but outside the Knesset there is a doctors strike and what are the MKs occupied with? Their own conditions. This is bad for the Knesset," he said.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has said he objects to any change in the status of the Gronau committee. The law provides that MKs' employment terms are set by the House Committee after receiving a formal opinion from the Gronau committee. Therefore, even if the Knesset House Committee recommendations encounter opposition from Gronau's panel, the House Committee legally has the last word.

Gronau criticized the establishment of the new committee, saying if the Knesset wants to free itself from the oversight of his committee, it could vote to do so.