Shortly before the curtain is raised on the 19th Knesset and the 120 elected MKs swear allegiance to the state, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin leveled harsh criticism on the MKs that served for the last four years.
"When we swore in excellent people to the 18th Knesset, people with discernible capabilities and from various professional backgrounds, I hoped they would have a wide influence on the content of discussions and on the Knesset character," Rivlin reflected in an interview with Israel Hayom.
"Unfortunately, these hopes were miserably dashed. After they realized that the lengthy Knesset term wouldn't reward them with quick public gains, these people, who came to the Knesset from various professional backgrounds in the defense establishment, academics, journalism and other important fields, ended up using gimmicks and engaging in scandal to grab headlines, instead of fulfilling their public mandates to advance their electorates' ideas and ideals," Rivlin said.
Rivlin refused to divulge the names of the MKs that particularly troubled him, but said that "a portion of these MKs also revealed intellectual dishonesty when they voted on bills in committee discussions without prior knowledge. Sometimes, they didn't even take part in the legislative process. If this is how they lead, what will the rest of us say?"
Speaking about the introduction of 48 MKs who have never served a Knesset term, Rivlin said: "I am looking at their terms with trepidation and hope.
"I hope, restlessly, that their accomplishments and capacity to act will be more important to them than gimmicks. These MKs represent a wide spectrum of Israeli society. They are people who have proven themselves in a variety of fields: former senior officers in the police force, mayors, journalists and political activists. The question is, does the desire to make effectual legislation that will have a lasting impact on the coming generations outweigh the temptation to grab headlines? Will they spill water on an MK that differs in their opinion? The new Knesset is revolutionary in terms of how many new MKs are represented. There is one faction, Yesh Atid, in which none of the members have ever served a day as an MK, and there are two party heads [Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi's Naftali Bennett] who have never served as publicly elected officials."
Rivlin believes that there is a good chance the new Knesset will be able to successfully enact Basic Laws, because "civil issues, chief among them civil rights, were very dominant in the last campaign season. They are high priorities for many of the incoming MKs. The Knesset must legislate a bill of rights."
In light of Shas leader Aryeh Deri's return to the Knesset, seven years after finishing a sentence for taking $155,000 in bribes, Rivlin said he thought the government should review the issue of permitting former elected officials with a criminal background to serve as Knesset representatives. The 19th Knesset might have to set new norms. Someone who was sentenced under the banner of moral turpitude and served jail time, especially for having taken bribes, should not be allowed back into the plenum as a representative of the public.
Rivlin is hoping to be chosen Knesset speaker for a third time, and he also has his sights set on the presidency, which will open following the end of Shimon Peres' term in a year and a half. Rivlin declined to speak about the matter.
"To the best of my knowledge, I have won the confidence of the public, which elected me to continue serving as the Knesset speaker," he said.
Referring to rumors that a Likud MK without a place in the next government is eying the post of Knesset speaker, Rivlin said, "This job is not a consolation prize for deposed ministers."