An initiative by brand-new Knesset member Stav Shaffir (Labor) inspired by the example of Iceland could help give a legislative voice to ordinary citizens. Knesset members would leave the embrace of the air-conditioned plenum and go out to meet the public, proposes the former social activist. The MKs would listen to people in the field and advance legislative proposals suggested by the ordinary citizens.
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Her initiative aims to bolster not only the connection but trust between the public and the legislature, explains Shaffir, who had been one of the leaders behind the 2011 summer "tent protest".
Yesterday Shaffir declared the establishment of the Social Justice Lobby in the Knesset. Its purpose is to promote meetings with legislators around the country, spurred by requests people send in over the Internet.
When I decided to go into politics, said Shaffir on her Facebook page, I set myself a goal: When I leave here the trust between the politicians and the public will be far stronger; the politicians will not be able to forget the reality in this country and the citizens will not be able to forgo alertness between one election and the next.
The new lobby for social justice will not deal with complaints but rather with solutions," Shaffir said. "I will seek solutions to actual problems, and alternatives to the 'terrible budget'", a reference to the fact that deep budget cuts are necessary for Israel to meet its deficit target. "These solutions will be suggested by ordinary citizens. To ensure that the Knesset members understand the issues in depth, our meetings will alternate: once at the Knesset, once in your neighborhood.
Shaffir is acting to bring the social activists and the social networks into the daily world of the Knesset. In Iceland they are already writing laws by means of social networks and in Finland they send public petitions directly to votes in the parliament," she said. But it isn't enough: Israel's parliamentarians need to leave their comfort zone and meet the citizens in the streets, give the a way to participate. "The time has come for us - both the citizens and their elected representatives - to learn to be more involved and more involving.