Wednesday’s session lasted about six and a half hours. Eight bills were discussed. The Knesset advanced four of them and defeated the others. The bills that were advanced included a consumer protection bill, a crime fighting bill, a health insurance for returning citizens bill and a promoting minors’ rights bill. Most of the day was spent on queries and motions. Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai made headlines when he announced during a query that if he was the general in charge he would have kicked out of the army the religious officers who walked out of a women’s performance for religious reasoning of not wanting to hear “kol ishah” (a woman’s voice) instead of sending them to jail.
- Urgent queries were answered at the beginning of the session by Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.), Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai (Labor) and Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.).
- 7 motions were discussed towards the end of the session. As usual the MKs chose topics that have been in the news recently. Four of the seven motions were passed unanimously and were sent to their relevant committees. The votes indicate how many MKs stayed for the motion portion of the day’s agenda and how they gradually decided to leave for the day: 21-0, 12-0, 12-0 and 7-0. The other three motions were not brought up to a vote after the MKs that proposed them were pleased with the government’s rebuttal.
- Deputy Health Minister Litzman and Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon (Y.B.) answered queries at the end of the session.
Amendment to the Communications Law
MK Maklev (U.T.J.) explained that his amendment would forbid commercial companies from using an automatic dialing system that calls a person, hangs up, and forces the person to call the number back, forcing the person to pay unknowingly high rates for the call. Maklev said that he viewed this as a consumer protection law.
Communications Minister Kahlon (Likud) expressed government support for the bill. He explained that while this violation was already outlawed as part of the “Spam Bill”, some companies have found loopholes, and this bill will eliminate them.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 32-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.
Restricting Religious Activities in the Army – The Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police Bill
MK Horowitz (Meretz) explained that his original bill would stop Jewish “missionizing” on army bases and police stations. He said that only licensed army and police rabbis should be allowed on army bases. He called for a complete separation of synagogue and state. He attacked the ultra-orthodox and praised the reform Jews. MK Gafni (U.T.J.) heckled that he was more of a Zionist than Horowitz was. Horowitz fired back that the secular majority of the country support this bill. He blasted the Chabad, Breslov Chasidim and other religious groups who carry out illegal religious practices such as the lighting of Hanukah candles, building of Sukkot, and handing out of doughnuts and mishloach manot. Speaker Rivlin interrupted and asked Horowitz to explain his problem with doughnuts. Horowitz responded that these “religious freaks” enter army bases without permission. Speaker Rivlin asked Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai (Labor) if this is true. Vilnai laughed and said that no one enters army bases without permission. Horowitz called the government killers of liberalism and stepped down.
Religious Affairs Minister Margi (Shas) attacked MK Horowitz, who claims to be a person of tolerance and then proposes a bill that is intolerant of religion and religious people. He asked why the Education Corps can bring into army bases lecturers, singers, standup comedians and authors who are not soldiers to preach culture and liberalism, while the Religious Corps can’t bring in people to build a Sukkah or hand out a doughnut. He slammed the Meretz party for claiming to be a universal party that cares for everybody, when all they do is attack the ultra-orthodox and spread “sinat chinam”. Speaker Rivlin added that this bill was racist against the religious because it would not restrict the non-religious people who visit army bases but only the religious people.
MK Horowitz challenged that all of the Education Corps guests that are invited have permission and that Chabad does not have permission. He called religious people damaging to the army. He added that the army should stop sending soldiers to religious institutions for Shabbat. He blasted the government for sending the religious affairs minister instead of the defense minister. Speaker Rivlin uncharacteristically expressed he would fight this bill as illegal on terms of racism if the bill passed.
The bill was defeated 10-54.
Periphery Public Housing bill
MK Tiviaev (Kadima) explained that his original bill would create public housing in the Negev and the Galil. He said that he was sent to the Negev city of Ofakim when he got off the plane from Russia and has been a proud Ofakim resident ever since. He told the story of his neighbor, Yisrael, who asked for public housing and was denied because the government is only giving public housing to people who currently live in the center of the country. He explained that his bill would allow every city in the Galil and Negev to allocate 25% of their public housing to their own city’s residents. Tiviaev complained that for 20 years the country has not built any public housing. He said that he tried to increase that the number, and after realizing that is not possible, wants to at least help the residents in the periphery out of their poverty. He agreed with one of the MKs who mocked him for living in Ofakim and asked the government to change it. He painted the sad picture of Ofakim, that offers no new houses or jobs, and how people are leaving the city for the center of the country. He pledged that this bill is not a budget bill but, rather, a community bill.
Immigration and Absorption Minister Landver (Y.B.) explained that she agreed with MK Tiviaev but that the government opposes the bill. She expressed hope that a committee discussing the public housing issue can offer a solution to this issue. She exposed that 12,000 people this year have submitted requests for 500 public housing vacancies.
MK Tiviaev responded that he finds it very interesting that the minister agrees with the bill and is voting against it. He charged that the government was turning the Negev and Galil into the trash bin of the country and said that those who oppose the bill are the guiltiest.
The bill was defeated 25-49.
Amendment to the National Road Safety Bill
MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained his amendment would fix road safety deficiencies by allocating 25% of the payments for traffic violations to the Road Safety Authority. Sheetrit recalled that he started the authority when he was transportation minister over a decade ago. He exposed that Israel has the highest number of pedestrian road fatalities in the world at 30%. He guessed that people would be more willing to pay the fine if they knew that part of the money would go to prevention of traffic accidents. He remarked that Florida has this law, and it is very popular there.
Minorities Relations Minister Braverman (Labor) agreed that road safety should be improved but expressed government opposition to the bill. Braverman said that increasing funding to the police will be the easiest way to improve road safety and prevent accidents. He concluded by stating there is no reason to link one department’s funding to another, and it is important to keep everything on a simpler, national level.
MK Sheetrit responded that he was in shock from the nonsense he heard from the government.
The bill was defeated 25-52.
Local Authorities Highway Maintenance Bill
MK Bielski (Kadima) explained that his original bill would force the government to take responsibility for maintaining the roads which they paved 30 years ago and for which they then transferred the maintenance responsibility to the local authorities. Bielksi wondered if maybe it would have been better to lobby the bill. Speaker Rivlin opposed the bill and warned that it would cost the country billions of NIS each year. Bielski charged that coalition member and Tourism Minister Misezhnikov (Y.B.) was the person who first thought of the bill.
Minorities Relations Minister Braverman expressed government opposition to the bill and explained that most of the blame for that comes from the Israeli government system. He supported a presidential system, similar to America, and said until that point he would have to vote against the bill.
MK Bielski responded that he was disappointed with the government.
The bill was defeated 21-48.
Amendment to the Local Authorities Bill
MK Ezra (Kadima) explained that his amendment would eradicate violence in Israel. He explained that 80 of the over 200 city councils have been part of the “City without violence” program that MK Ezra enacted when he was Homeland Security Minister. He explained that he simply wanted to extend his program from 80 to all of the city councils.
Religious Affairs Minister Margi expressed government support for the bill.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 35-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.
Amendment to the National Health Insurance Law
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) explained that his amendment would, in certain cases, offer exceptions to shorten the waiting period to be entitled to national health insurance. He thanked Deputy Speaker Shama (Likud) for co-sponsoring the bill with him. Hasson explained that, currently, returning citizens who have been gone for a decade are not entitled to national health insurance for six months. He explained that this bill will give these people immediate national health insurance and will help promote the return of citizens living abroad.
Deputy Health Minister Litzman expressed his support and government support for the bill.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 24-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.
Amendment to the Penal Code Bill
MK Levy-Abekasis (Y.B.) explained that her amendment would force the government to award payments of compensation to minors who are injured while victims of a criminal offense. She noted that this bill met the most resistance of all the bills she has proposed.
None of the ministers were in the room. Deputy Speaker Shama decided that since Minister Begin (Likud), who was supposed to be there to answer for the government, was not there he would bring the matter to a vote.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 14-0 with one abstaining and was sent to the Justice Committee.