120 reasons to change your political party
The migratory season of parliamentary aides has begun. Forty MKs are being replaced. This means that 80 out of 240 aides will lose their income. At least some of them will seek refuge with the newcomers. But at the same time there are hundreds who are trying to find out how one goes about getting a job in an institution that, even though its standing is diminished, continues to be prestigious.
"People say, 'Wow, you work at the Knesset,'" says Motti Ovadia, an aide to MK Nissan Slomiansky. He is also quick to point out that the prestige of the post depends also on which MK you are an aide to.
At least some of the aides are hoping that the road from assistant to being a senior MK will not necessarily be a long one. It happened, for example, to the former parliamentary aide of MK Yuri Stern, MK Stas Mesezhnikov (Yisrael Beiteinu).
"People found jobs on the outside, even good jobs, because they could say that 'I was a parliamentary aide,'" Ovadia says. The salaries are not impressive, between NIS 7,000-11,000 (including all perks) but it is certainly reasonable for a young person just starting out. There was a time when there were significant gaps between the salaries of the aides of MKs, which led to serious disputes among them. But in recent years the Knesset House Committee narrowed the differences.
How does one get to such a job? There is, of course, the tried and tested method of "knowing people who know people." And the offices of MKs see enormous amounts of CVs arriving throughout the year.
Usually every MK has an aide who deals with parliamentary matters and one who serves as a spokesman and needs to battle with 120 other spokespersons trying to draw the attention of correspondents covering the Knesset.
Whether this work turns out to be a dream job or a nightmare depends a great deal on who your MK is. A veteran aide explains a few of the variables at play: Young MKs tend to spread out in many areas so as to stand out and then working with them becomes a lot more difficult (but perhaps also a lot more challenging). There are aides who argue that the job is cushy because of the Knesset recesses, and there are those who have never experienced a recess because they work seven days a week.
Polishing the boss' shoes
There are MKs who are known for degrading treatment of their aides or those who expect their assistants to do all their errands for them. There are stories about an aide who was asked to polish her boss' shoes. Some MKs change their aides often. They find it difficult to find experienced aides, because they have a terrible reputation.
A new ethics code for MKs calls on them to treat their aides fairly and not like servants, but the parliamentarians did not pass it into law.
Another recommended consideration on how to select an MK: Does he/she know how to drive? If not, the aide will have to drive the MK everywhere.
And there was something surprising: Everyone I talked to for this piece talked a great deal about the friendships, and no one talked about backstabbing. Ties between aides seem to also cross party lines. Like any community of young people the aides report a good amount of sexual and romantic tension.
A young MK left the parliament during the last Knesset in favor of his parliamentary aide. There are at least several married couples of aides who met at the Knesset. But in view of the small numbers of people involved, it is not a recommended way to look for a mate.
And there is that sexist remark by MK Moshe Sharoni, of the Pensioners party, which resulted in a reprimand from the Knesset Ethics Committee: "Female parliamentary assistants either put out or are kicked out."
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