All in Favor / Rekindling the Public's Interest

It's hard to keep track of all the initiatives to change the system of government that have been launched over the past year. They are progressing simultaneously, but it remains to be seen if any of them will ever be implemented.

Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik is promoting the least publicized proposal of all. The reform pertains to the Knesset only, as opposed to the other initiatives. Itzik's proposal aims to address the findings of a recent survey that showed only 2 percent of the public enjoyed full confidence in their legislators.

Itzik wants to set up a Knesset committee to oversee the implementation of laws and order the government to implement those that are overlooked. The team would be headed by a member of the opposition.

MK Michael Eitan (Likud) was mentioned as a serious candidate to head this team. He is considered an excellent legislator who is capable of being blunt. Those who favor his nomination believe he would not "play nice" or go easy on anyone because of political consideration. This makes him the right man to rock the boat.

Another issue Itzik intends to address is regaining public interest in parliamentary procedures. Banning jeans as a violation of Knesset dress code is guaranteed to attract attention, but that's exactly the sort of attention Itzik wants to avoid. Except no one is interested in proposals for the Knesset's agenda anymore. Even no-confidence votes, which have become a weekly ritual, seldom receive coverage.

The solution, according to Itzik, is to be found in summoning ministers to regularly attend Knesset committee meetings, and summoning the prime minister to attend plenum meetings. The ministers would deliver bi-annual de-briefings on ministry projects.

The ministers may even be required to provide updates at shorter intervals. They would also be required to answer questions on those projects. In other words, the ministers would have to face a hearing of sorts.

"Today there is no parliamentary oversight," Itzik said. And that's a harsh statement coming from the Knesset speaker. Itzik would have the prime minister answer questions from the plenum every few months. She says a query-screening mechanism would have to be put in place to prevent the MKs from posing questions of a personal nature.

In her speech for the opening of the winter session two weeks ago, Itzik inveighed against the inflationary surge in private bills. "We have reached levels of excess that serve to demean the legislative process," she said. She believes this phenomenon has reached proportions unmatched by any other parliament in the world.

To cure this symptom, Itzik would instate a limitation on the number of bills any MK would be allowed to put forth. She proposes the maximum be set at 10. But even that would produce approximately 1,000 private bills overall per year. But that figure would constitute a improvement to the 3,009 bills the members of the 17th Knesset have filed so far.

To implement her reform, Itzik needs a consensus, as imposing it by reaching a simple majority would debunk the entire endeavor. Except consensus takes time in the Israeli parliament. It might take longer than Itzik's tenure.