Never been done before in the Knesset

I just watched an interview on IBA-TV (from Sunday) with new legislator Rabbi Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid. He said that he intends to hold weekly open office hours where any “constituent” can come with a problem.

The interviewer pointed out that he has no district like a US congress member, so he has seven million constituents. How will he handle it? Lipman said his staff has figured out procedures (e.g. prior email or phone contact) to cope with the logistics, and then he said that this office hours idea is something that has never been done before in the Knesset.

I do not know whether that is true, but if it is, it makes for a nice finding for a single-district national closed-list electoral system!

In another interview (on Arutz Sheva radio), Lipman said he would be always available for any English speakers in the country who need assistance. (See “A self-proclaimed congresmen for English-speaking immigrants” in Haaretz.) He is American-born, having made aliyah only eight years ago (and only renounced his US citizenship upon his election, as required under both country’s laws). He is the first American-born Member of the Knesset since Rabbi Meir Kahane about thirty years ago; their country of birth and rabbinic title would seem to be about all these two MKs have in common.

In the radio interview, he also spoke of wanting to serve as a representative of Beit Shemesh, the city where he lives, and which he said has had no effective representation. He also considers himself Haredi, though he looks and sounds more “Modern Orthodox”. He is one of Yesh Atid’s intended bridges to the ultra-orthodox in its pursuit of drafting more Haredim into the Israeli military. He further wants to take up the cause of obstacles imposed on Ethiopians and Russians by the rabbinic establishment: “I feel I need to take up [the*] cause and be a voice for those who were persecuted in Russia for being Jewish and are now persecuted here for being non-Jews” (from the Haaretz profile).

Lipman was elected at number 17 on the list of Yesh Atid, which won 19 seats.


________________
* In the original quotation he refers here specifically to Rav Chaim Amsalem who broke away from the Haredi Sephardic party Shas, but whose Am Shalem list failed to clear the threshold.

9 thoughts on “Never been done before in the Knesset

  1. I’m impressed – new politics indeed! Let us hope others follow his example.

    MSS, I’m pretty sure foreign citizenships have to be renounced on candidacy, so even before election… but I may be wrong of course.

    • Apparently not on candidacy, as in (yet) another interview I saw with him he spoke of having to do the formal renunciation before his swearing in but after the election. See also the Haaretz profile, which seems to support that timetable, too.

  2. Lipman was the leader of the non-Haredi (actually I think he calls himself ‘Haredi,’ in the Lithuanian/Yeshivish tradition, but he’s not what the word ‘Haredi’ usually bring to mind) comminity in Beit Shemesh, starting when Haredim begin throwing rocks at ‘immodest’ primary school girls.

    I think he was used in tbe campaign to appeal to Anglo immigrants, and the more modern religious community that was leaning Bennett. Most of the parties don’t have enough MKs to do effective regional ‘constituency’ work, though some of the larger parties save places on their lists for certain regions, like the north and south, and for groups like moshavniks/kibbutzniks.

  3. (Note that case would apply to American law; Israeli law may well require it, although given that it’s coerced by Israeli law I’m not sure an American court would consider it voluntary enough to be truly a voluntary renunciation.)

  4. Kahane’s case is interesting, and I believe is used as the textbook example of loss of citizenship in immigration law.

    The most charitable words I can think of to describe Kahane are “absolute nutjob,” though that may be too generous. Kahane wanted to retain US citizenship because he believed that the US would deny him a visa if he were not a citizen, which would impair his ability to rabble-rouse and fundraise amongst American Jewry.

    Kahane was elected to the Knesset in 1984, after several unsuccessful campaigns, insisting the whole time he did not intend to give up US citizenship. He swore his oath of office to the Torah, not to Israel, partially to attempt to claim immunity if he violated Israeli law and partially to claim he did not renounce his US citizenship by swearing allegiance to a foreign state (why the Knesset let him hold office without swearing the proper oath is beyond me). The Department of State ruled that serving in a foreign parliament was expatriating, and stripped him of his citizenship, but Kahane won an appeal in court (the article you cited), restoring it.

    After this, the Israeli government, which did not want Kahane to be able to escape their jurisdiction, passed a law saying that to serve in the Knesset, one must make every attempt to renounce his other nationalities if the laws of those countries allow it. US law does allow it, and Kahane renounced his US nationality at the US Embassy in Israel so he could stand for the Knesset. The Israeli government then banned Kahane’s Kach party as racist and as objecting to the “democratic” part of a “Jewish and democratic state.” Kahane then claimed that his renunciation of citizenship had been conditional on his being allowed to stand for Knesset, and this meant he had not in fact renounced it, but State would have none of it. I believe he was still attempting to regain his citizenship when he was assassinated in 1990 (http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1988/Kahane-Seeks-Return-Of-U-S-Citizenship/id-8e8f3deaef0aa72624eeab6446e94eaf)

    Prior to Kahane’s first revocation of citizenship, another MK had her citizenship stripped, but it was restored when she argued that being in a feminist minor party and having had no real expectation of crossing the threshold hardly meant she intended to resign her citizenship when she ran, nor that she was in a true “policy making” position. There was also the Afroyim case, where the court ruled that simply voting in an Israeli election was not voluntarily giving up citizenship, and in the Terrazas case, they ruled that even if one signs foreign naturalization papers willingly which state the person is giving up all other citizenships, unless the person signed them with the intention of renouncing US citizenship, US citizenship is retained. As a result of this, the US does not generally expatriate people who take a second citizenship as a matter of convenience, even if the law of that country states the person is giving up all other nationalities. Given how strong the 14th Amendment is, if one appeals any revocation of his citizenship, it is almost certain to be restored by the courts unless one renounced before consular officials, a Kahane did.

    Lipman’s renunciation is related to the law Israel passed after Kahane’s citizenship was restored, and Lipman willfully renounced his citizenship. I’m sure he didn’t really want to give it up, and as he is nowhere near as crazy as Kahane, I doubt the US would have expatriated him, but Israeli law did indeed force him to renounce his citizenship.

  5. The discussion of citizenship law here is interesting.

    What I had heard in some news account (though I did not check it independently) was that US law would consider service in a “foreign government” as grounds for having effectively renounced US citizenship. Whether serving in a legislature counts as serving in a government is an interesting legal question (to which I assume there is an accepted answer).

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