The members of the 17th Knesset who will convene here in a few months will be faced with a series of historic missions.
I wish to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, the members of Knesset and the Knesset employees, on this festive day for the Israel Knesset.
It is my privilege to be one of the veteran Knesset members here at this plenary. Maybe even, I believe, the most veteran among those sitting here today. I have seen the Knesset during times of disagreement, turmoil and conflict. I took part in some of the most fateful decisions which helped shape the current character of the State of Israel. I participated, like most the members here today, in the dramatic decisions taken by the 16th Knesset.
I have seen the Knesset also during low times, but also in moments of unity during crises in the face of weighty national missions.
At the Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1947, David Ben Gurion set a target date for the introduction of a Constitution to Israel. The date specified for this Constitution by the National Assembly was October 1, 1948. As we all know, this Constitution was not formulated then, and has not been formulated since.
As it appears, this session will be the last in the annals of the 16th Knesset. The members of the 17th Knesset who will convene here in a few months will therefore be faced with a series of historic missions.
The supreme goal of consolidating the status of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state will be foremost on our mind.
The first mission towards achieving this goal will be the determination of the final borders of the State of Israel.
Another mission which is no less important will be to carry out the commitment given at the Declaration of Independence to draft a constitution for Israel.
The constitution is a central tool for anchoring Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state in the deepest and most ethical meaning of these terms. The constitution will guarantee that the State of Israel will act in accordance with the Jewish moral values and the basic democratic values, as an inseparable part of its conduct. It will guarantee human rights, introduce clear regulations for the Government’s conduct, as well as shape a relationship based on equality and guarantee the rights and duties of the Arab minority in this country.
Menachem Begin defined the need for a constitution in the following
statement: “We want a free country; we want a country in which the citizens can breath its air of freedom, in which they will feel masters of their home, in which their dignity will not be trampled on by the authority; in which they will feel themselves protected by the constitution”..
The constitution will also need to guarantee a more appropriate and efficient governmental system for this country.
We need to ensure greater governmental stability. There is a clear need to prevent a situation in which the average term of an acting government in Israel is 23 months. There is a need to prevent the situation whereby ministers are replaced by other ministers even before stepping into their offices. We must guarantee a stable government that can complete its full 4-year term, for the benefit and welfare of the citizens of Israel. A stable government which can transcend daily considerations and make long-term decisions.
However, governmental stability is not enough – there is also need for governmental efficiency. Amending the system will guarantee that the government authorities can perform better. Clear responsibilities will be determined for the executive and parliamentary authorities, and a balance will be created vis-a-vis the judicial authority.
We will amend the distortion which prevents many of the decisions from being upheld. We will guarantee that the decisions will be fully enforced. It is the way to restore the public’s faith in the government institutes.
Another subject is representation. No more capitulation of Knesset members to power and interest groups within the parties, but a real and true representation of the citizens. The new system will have to strengthen the commitment and connection of the Knesset members to the country’s citizens.
It is my intention to submit to the 17th Knesset a comprehensive proposal to amend the wrongs and improve the government system – in order to enhance the stability and guarantee efficiency, so that the Knesset members will truly represent the citizens of Israel.
I believe that drafting a constitution and changing the government system during the term of the 17th Knesset are worthy and achievable targets. I believe this should be done with the widest possible consent, in order for the most comprehensive public consensus to be reflected. We must reflect the vision which unites us all and the moral values common to us all, and symbolize the national unity to which we must aspire.
It is time to realize the promise given at the Declaration of Independence. It is time to consolidate the Jewish and democratic essence of the State of Israel.
Before I conclude, allow me to extend, on this festive day for the Knesset, my best wishes for the speedy recovery of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, one of the veteran members of this parliament, who is not celebrating with us the Knesset’s holiday today.
In conclusion, as I said, the 17th Knesset will be confronted with a series of national missions of top priority. I hope that the citizens of Israel will elect serious delegates, with the stature and ability to carry out these missions.
I hope that the next Knesset will witness a comprehensive national consensus, in order that we can meet all the national challenges ahead.