Some people think the most powerful union in the country is the Israel Electric Corporation's works committee. They're wrong. The most powerful union in the country is in the Knesset, and it has 120 members. Last week they wiped out a plan to unify the local authorities because it wasn't good for them, politically. The party's central committee wants jobs and what the central committee members want, the central committee members get.
Today, the last day of the Knesset session before the (too long) summer recess, it will finally become known whether Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to pass a symbolic unification of about 10 local authorities. Today it will also become apparent if anything remains of the plan by Interior Minister Avraham Poraz to reduce the number of deputy mayors in local authorities. Some 550 people now serve as paid deputy mayors, each one costing the tax payer some half a million shekels a year - not counting the office and aides. Poraz wants to get rid of 270. Minister in the treasury Meir Sheetrit, after negotiations with central committee member Uzi Cohen representing the deputy mayors, proposes cutting 200 of the posts. Netanyahu, who gave into pressure from the mayors, proposes eliminating 100 of the jobs. So, what will the MKs agree on?
A week ago, the MKs passed the first reading of an amazingly cheeky law: to turn the 10 faction managers in the Knesset into Knesset employees, so their salaries are paid from the public coffers and not by the party, nor from the NIS 4.5 million given to the factions to pay for secretarial costs. The ministerial committee on legislation opposes the law, but that doesn't seem to bother the MKs.
A week ago, the Knesset decided to take off the agenda four proposals meant to limit MKs' immunity (considered the most sweeping parliamentary immunity in the world) and to take away from the Knesset House Committee the authority to strip MKs of their immunity and give it to an external body. Judges recuse themselves from dealing with cases of people known to them personally - but the MKs don't think that is necessary in their case. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his son MK Omri Sharon, who sat for hours in the debate, voted against any change to the parliamentary immunity. Does that have anything to do with the investigation of Gilad Sharon in the matter of Cyril Kern and his refusal to speak to the police or give them any documents from the case?
The MKs have a nice trick they use to improve their quality of life, called "contact with the voter." For the purpose of that "contact," they have a NIS 86,000 annual budget, which allows them to purchase equipment such as computers, photocopiers, cellular phones, espresso machines, refrigerators, curtains and mirrors (as bought by MK Arye Gamliel) or wind protectors for their cars (bought by MK Yaakov Litzman) and other oddities. Lately it turned out that MKs who left the Knesset bought equipment, originally paid for with public monies, without any tender and at significant prices, for their personal use.
And now to the latest trick. The Knesset plenum decided this week to establish a public committee to discuss the wages and working conditions of the MKs. Interestingly, they always appoint very wealthy people to such committees. Why don't they try naming some factory worker who has a somewhat different view of wage levels and working conditions? MK Zahava Gal-On complained there were no women on the committee. So, maybe they should take Vicki Knafo, whose perspective on life and the cost of living is certainly different from that of Prof. Reuven Grunau, accountant Daniel Doron, and attorney Yosef Gilor, the members of the committee.
The biggest scandal of all in the summer session was the double vote by the three MKs. For the meantime, the solution found by the Knesset House Committee is fingerprint identification equipment. Despite everything said above about MKs, this proposal crosses every line. It stains every MK with the image of a criminal, shames the parliament and therefore humiliates all Israeli citizens. Clearly, now, after the entire affair has come out into the open, nobody will dare to vote twice. So, it would be best to stop now, lest someone yet demand DNA devices to make sure the MKs don't send clones to the house.
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