Monday, January 14, 2008

Knesset Members Disapproval of Private NGO Herzliya Conference at the Parliament

Herzliya Conference spurs controversy in Knesset

Knesset members proved unwilling to wait for the official opening of the Herzliya Conference next week to launch into debate, as several attacked the decision to hold the opening day events in the parliamentary halls.

Since its inception seven years ago, the IDC-sponsored Herzliya Conference has become Israel's most well-known summit on state security and policy. MKs have long criticized the importance that the media and senior government officials grant the conference, arguing that instead of giving an NGO the forum to oversee government policy, the Knesset should be establishing its own system of review.

This year, the Knesset has taken the unprecedented step of holding the conference's opening-day events in the parliament. While some, including Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, believe that bringing the conference to the Knesset will help lawmakers foster new debates and create new legislation, others argue that the Knesset is allowing the private sector to do the government's job.

"It has become a populist thing to say that you are against Herzliya because it is funded by an NGO and by private donors with a lot of money," Osfeld said. "The conference provides a great service that did not exist before. We can either ignore it or pretend it does not happen, or embrace it and learn from it."

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