Absent MKs Told to Explain Themselves

Five MKs, ministers taken to task for absences from Knesset. Foreign Minister Lieberman fined.

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Maayana Miskin,

Knesset plenum
Knesset plenum
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Five ministers and Members of Knesset received warnings Tuesday for missing more than one-third of the Knesset’s winter sessions. One of them, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, was fined.

The Knesset met 61 times over the winter. MKs were allowed to miss up to 20 sessions, deputy ministers were permitted to be absent 24 times, and ministers 30 times.

Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) was absent 38 times. He told the Knesset’s Ethics Committee that his absences were the result of frequent trips abroad to represent Israel as Foreign Minister. The committee accepted his explanation in part, and docked his pay for only four of the eight excess days he missed.

MK Nino Abesadze (Kadima) missed 22 sessions, two more than allowed. She told the Ethics Committee that she was absent due to parliamentary activities outside the Knesset building.

The committee rejected the explanation, saying parliamentary activities do not justify more than 20 absences, particularly as MKs may conduct parliamentary activities on days when Knesset is not in session. However, the committee let MK Abesadze off with a warning due to her previous attendance record.

MK Chaim Katz (Likud) missed 21 sessions. He told the committee that he had exceeded the limit due to attendance at conferences, and his father’s hospitalization. He was let off with a warning.

Minister Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), who was an MK during the winter session, missed 25 sessions. He told the Ethics Committee that he missed sessions due to his busy schedule during primary elections in the Kadima party. He also claimed that he had been marked absent during days when he was present because he had entered through a side door.

The Ethics Committee rejected his explanation, stating that political activity such as primaries does not justify failure to attend at least two-thirds of the Knesset sessions. Regarding Mofaz’s claim that he was in fact present on some days, the committee said it is the MK’s responsibility, not the Knesset’s, to make sure he is marked “present.”

However, because it was Mofaz’s first offense, and because he was present during some days on which he was marked absent, he was let off with a warning.

MK Miri Regev (Likud) missed 22 sessions. She told the committee she had missed extra days due to medical treatment, both for herself and for her mother. The committee rejected her argument, stating that the 20 permitted absences are expected to suffice for routine medical treatment. However, she was let off with a warning due to prior attendance.