Olmert, Itzik to Set Forum for Dialogue Between Cabinet and Knesset

PM, Knesset speaker establish 'round-table forum' to promote dialogue between government, Knesset.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik have decided to establish a forum to promote dialogue between the government and Knesset, and for solving disputes between the two bodies, Haaretz has learned.

The first meeting of the forum, nicknamed the "round-table forum," is scheduled for Wednesday in the Speaker's chambers. Government sources told Haaretz that the first meeting will deal primarily with setting the forum's protocol for future sessions.

Together with Olmert and Itzik - both of whom are Kadima members - the forum will include five ministers (including Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Ruhama Avraham-Balilah, the minister responsible for Knesset-government relations,) five prominent Knesset members from the major parties and several senior civil servants.

"This sort of dialogue never happened before, and we feel it is very important," Itzik said Thursday.

The primary bone of contention between the two bodies concerns the legislative process. The forum's basic premise is that the Knesset's work comprises three components: Legislation, supervision of the government's work and placing items on the public agenda.

Since the Knesset has very little means with which to supervise the government, and because public discussion has gradually switched to different venues such as academic conferences and television programs, MKs have resorted to legislation as their only means with which to solve problems.

This has created a problem for the government as MKs have flooded the plenum with thousands of bills, straining government resources as it is required to react to each bill.

To solve this issue, the Knesset and the government are now negotiating a deal under which the MKs would agree to limit the number of private bills in exchange for concessions on the government's part, which would allow for greater supervision of its work.

The initiatives and proposals reviewed by the round-table forum will be arranged and compiled by another forum, comprising high-ranking civil servants, known as the "secretaries forum."

Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel, who heads the secretaries forum, says that until now, the only dialogue in which the Knesset and cabinet have engaged was via populist banter in the media.

"I think that dialogue between the two parties can make a lot of difference," he said. "At 60, our country needs to stop dealing with trivial nonsense and start on more dialogue."

Yehezkel says the aim is for the forum to become a permanent body, meeting at set intervals to coordinate the different positions of the Knesset and government. In the future, Yehezkel aspires to set up similar forums with the judicial branch.

The forum's second meeting, set to take place two weeks after the first, will center on the proposed deal for limiting private bills.