Friday, July 02, 2004

Bish goes to the Knesset and learns about how democracy works
On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation will vote on Bish’s bill draft. No kidding. He has a bill draft, a suggestion for legislation he wrote and has been promoting.

I’m so proud of him. He saw something that was wrong, something that in his view needed changing and, unlike the rest of us who just whine and whine about injustice and do nothing, he set about making a difference.

He’s no politician, my Bish. He’s not even a lawyer. He had no previous connections to politicians, no funding, and no backing, besides the small non profit organization he was recently elected to chair, which represents a few hundred of his professional peers.

He sat up nights at the computer, working out the details, then he sat with the NPO’s legal advisor and they worked on the draft. The legal advisor thought it would never work. He’s a nice guy, even if he did write our marriage agreement and later, much later, confessed to Bish that he hadn't thought we’d stay married for more than a year (he very perceptively thought the bride was a nutcase). It's just that he doesn’t seem to have much fighting spirit in him.

Then Bish started meeting with Knesset members and government ministers to try and get them interested in the bill (‘I’m going up to the Knesset again today, dear’). A few members of the NPO helped him get appointments with politicians they knew or knew people who knew.

Bish’s initial idea was to suggest that the relevant ministry use his bill draft, or their own draft based on its ideas, as a government bill. But the ministry clerks in question proved extremely hostile and refused to even read it. Their minister, on the other hand, did read it and liked it, and suggested Bish found Knesset members who would promote it as a private member’s bill.

Imagine our amazement and excitement when Knesset members from the coalition recognized the bill’s potential and took it up. It is going to be brought before the Knesset as a private bill, hopefully with government backing.

On Sunday, the government will vote if to give it such backing, the government that is in the form of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. That means, among others, Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu (Bish couldn’t get a meeting); Justice Minister Tommy Lapid (‘He was very nice, very impressive, but he looked so tired’); Minister for the Diaspora Natan Sharansky (‘What a lovely man, smiling eyes’ – smiling eyes is a big compliment in Bish’s book, maybe the biggest).

For years you feel like you are hitting your head against the wall every time you come in contact with government bureaucracy. It is so amazing to think that a private citizen like Bish can try to make a difference like this, if he sets his mind to do so, and can get this far. This has been an uplifting experience, an experience of what democracy means.

Even if the government decides not to back the bill, it will still be put before the Knesset, but it has a far better chance with government backing. I’ll keep you posted.

By the way, the bill still has a long way to go even if the government decides to back it. The bill that will eventually become law, God willing, will probably be much changed from Bish’s draft, maybe unrecognizable. You can read about the legislation process for a private member’s bill in Israel in the Knesset site.