Thursday October 30, 2014
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30.10.2014
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Gideon Allon

An insider's guide to the Knesset

The 48 new Knesset members who will take the oath of office on Tuesday attended a special orientation day on Sunday where they learned the basics of how to be a parliamentarian. Many of them appeared embarrassed and even overwhelmed, like young army recruits in their first days in uniform.

After all, it's hard to learn the entire parliamentary Torah while standing on one foot. So, new Knesset members, before you become totally overwhelmed, here are a few pieces of advice from a 20-year Knesset reporter, someone who knows the Knesset inside out and has observed the behavior of new Knesset members over the years.

• Don't rush to give a speech to the plenary. Watch ministers and veteran MKs from the benches. Observe how they express themselves, their tone of voice, and above all, whether they have something to say or are just looking for a few minutes of air time on the Knesset channel.

• Don't be in a rush to propose bills. The Knesset archives are filled with thousands of bills that never even reached a vote. Almost any proposed law you can think of has been proposed before in a different variation.

• Don't be tempted to propose bills of a populist nature just to generate newspaper headlines. Parliamentary reporters and veteran MKs will think of you as lacking seriousness.

• Forge connections with MKs from other parties. Sometimes you will find that despite differences of opinion, you may develop greater trust or a deeper friendship than with those from your own party.

• Don't take on, at least in the first few months, issues that you don't understand. Focus on issues in which you have prior knowledge, such as the IDF, the police, municipal politics or socio-economics.

• Try to behave in a civilized way. Keep your language clean and don't speak harshly, even if political rivals voice positions that make your blood boil. It's not always easy to hold back, but remember that every MK has the right to express his or her views.

• Study every issue you deal with in a serious and rigorous way, so that no one — including the government bureaucrats who appear before you in committees — can use your novice MK status against you and say, "You just don't get it."

• Don't be in a rush to travel abroad: Each MK receives numerous offers to visit interesting places, some of which can be very tempting, on faraway continents. Remember that your job is to represent the voting public in Israel and that too many trips abroad make a bad impression.

• Avoid becoming a member of more than one or two committees. Allow yourself to study the subjects at hand. If you join four or five committees, you will find yourself drowning in a sea of information and will not become an expert on any topic.

• Don't rush to give an interview every time someone sticks a microphone in your face. Weigh your words and think about what you want to say. Remember that archives have a long memory and your political rivals are always ready to dig up your less flattering quotes.

• Don't forget for even a moment that you work in a glass house. Every step you take will come under media scrutiny. It's very hard to keep secrets in the Knesset. Sooner or later, everything comes out. Keep that in mind, and let it guide your behavior.

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