Last Wednesday’s session lasted about eight hours. Eleven bills were discussed. One bill became law after passing its third reading, and four bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings. Five bills were defeated, and one was pulled to avoid defeat. The new law will encourage homeowners to put multiple apartments on the market by eliminating certain taxes for a limited time. Among the bills advanced are one that would allow a couple to get married in any rabbinical council and one that would extend the cooling off period for a mayor’s director-general. MK Zahalka created a big scene during the discussion of a bill aimed at discouraging illegal mining by using profanity while shouting and screaming at the bill’s sponsor in front of a third grade class audience, which resulted in Zahalka’s removal. MK Yoel Hasson was also removed from the plenum during the discussion of a different bill for his routine heckling.
- Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) and Deputy Education Minister Moses (U.T.J.) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.
- Ten motions were discussed on the various hot topics of the day. Six of the motions were passed on to committee discussion by votes of 9-3, 6-0, 9-1, 8-0, 9-0 and 5-0. Two motions were defeated by votes of 1-3-1 and 2-4. Two motions were not voted on and thereby not sent to committee.
- Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) answered several queries at the end of the session.
Amendment to the Local Authorities Elections Bill
MK Miller (Y.B.) explained that his amendment would prohibit a mayor’s Director General to be elected as mayor. He stated the current law requires a three-month cooling-off period, which he called ridiculous since the Director General can make his decision to run for mayor a year or two before then and use his position to be promoted to mayor.
Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) expressed government support for the bill.
MK Bar-On (Kadima) expressed his opposition to the bill, claiming the bill is tailored to serve Yisrael Beitenu because they currently have few mayors and directors-general. Bar-On said that we should encourage good people to run for mayor and that directors-general are, in many cases, the mayor’s right hand man and chosen successor and therefore worthy of running for public office. He noted that the prime minister’s director-general does not need a cooling off period, so why does a mayor’s director-general?
MK Miller stated that Kadima passed cooling off period bills for ramatkals and journalists to enter the Knesset for personal interests. He stressed that a mayor’s director-general has more power, authority and responsibility than the deputy mayor and therefore there is a real conflict of interest for him to run for mayor without a longer cooling off period.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 40-15-1 and was sent to the Interior Committee.
Amendment to the Mining Ordinance Bill
MK Ariel (N.U.) explained that his amendment would prohibit certain actions in unauthorized mining zones. He stated by prohibiting certain actions in an unauthorized mine it would add another crime for someone who operates an unauthorized mine.
National Infrastructure Minister Landau (Y.B.) expressed government support for the bill.
MK Zahalka (Balad) expressed his opposition to the bill on the grounds that the bill goes after the illegal Arab black market and scares Israeli buyers from buying mining products from Palestinians who illegally operate within Area C. He called on the Knesset to vote against this settler bill from a settler MK.
MK Ariel told Zahalka that asking the Knesset not to vote for his bill because he is a settler is discrimination and racist. Zahalka responded by heckling and screaming at Ariel for five minutes. Ariel never had a chance to finish his speech. Speaker Rivlin called Zahalka to order several times and suggested he behave in front of the third grade class that was sitting in the audience. Zahalka refused and kept screaming until Speaker Rivlin threw him out after calling him to order three times. Ariel filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee after Zahalka used profanity against him repeatedly while resisting his removal from the plenum by Knesset security.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 57-3 and was sent to the Finance Committee.
Amendment to the Employment of Contractor Employees Bill
MK Haim Katz (Likud) explained his amendment would correct the technical loopholes that the contracting companies have used to bypass the bill.
Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) expressed government support for the bill.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 59-0 and was sent to the Labor Committee.
Amendment to the Water Bill
MK Edery (Kadima) explained that his amendment would set a national tariff on water and add a few public appointments to the water supervising board. He blasted the Likud MKs who voted for raising the water prices and then went out and told the press that they opposed the raising of water prices.
National Infrastructure Minister Landau expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that most of the water in Israel has become privatized and regulated. He stated there is no need to force people to pay a single price for water and it should be cheaper or more expensive depending on the area one lives in. He said that a public appointment in a private company is a dangerous thing from which the government wishes to stay away.
The bill was defeated 31-51.
Amendment to the National Health Insurance Bill
MK Adatto (Kadima) explained her amendment would create a public committee to examine expanding the basket of health services provided by the health ministry. She said she hoped this would encourage the addition of more subsidized drugs.
Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that the ministerial committee of experts on this subject should maintain their responsibilities, power and authority. He stated that the ministry hires the most qualified people, not the most popular people, and therefore there is no reason for a public committee. He defended the tough choices the ministerial committee made this year given their tight budget, as they did every year before that.
MK Adatto defended her bill and said that the public committee could have a lot of the same members of the ministerial committee, along with a few “popular” people. She blasted the ministerial committee’s decisions this year and in past years.
The bill was defeated 22-44.
Two Amendments to the Minimum Wage Bill
MK Solodkin (Kadima) explained that her amendment would raise the minimum wage level. She noted that this is the fourth such bill proposed this term and she expects this to be the fourth such bill defeated this term. She said that raising rent as well as gas and bread prices require an increase to the minimum wage. She noted that the average monthly salary in November was NIS 8,340, compared to the minimum wage of NIS 3,961. She stressed her proposal will add less than NIS 500 to the minimum wage.
MK Barakeh (Hadash) explained that with his similar bill he wishes to accomplish the same thing as Solodkin’s bill. He called on the Knesset to vote for both bills.
Industry and Trade Minister Simhon expressed government opposition to both bills. He explained that minimum wage is a complicated subject and the opposition must learn to live with the changes that will take place, which include raising the minimum wage gradually over the next year based on the State budget.
MK Solodkin set that the nation is done waiting and a gradual raise is not acceptable.
The first bill was defeated 29-46.
The second bill was defeated 28-46.
Amendment to the Water and Sewage Bill
National Infrastructure Minister Landau asked MK Tirosh and MK Gafni not to present their bill and to delay the vote on it.
MK Tirosh (Kadima) explained that her amendment would exempt water rates from VAT (value added tax). She said she waited seven months to present this bill and will not wait any longer. She stated that the government is sticking their hand into the citizens’ pockets and robbing the public. She got into a screaming match with MK Regev (Likud) over the Likud MKs’ double standard, claiming they are for her bill but will end up voting against it. Deputy Speaker Akunis (Likud) removed MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) from the plenum for joining the fight.
The bill was defeated 34-50.
Amendment to the Marriage and Divorce Ordinance Bill
Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for MK Schneller’s (Kadima) bill. He stated the bill would allow a couple to register to get married in any regional registration center. He explained this would repeal the law that forces the couple to pick one of the cities that the couple lives in to go through the marriage process. Deputy Speaker Akunis announced that MK Schneller is allowing the MKs to vote on his bill even though he is not present.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 32-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.
Amendment to the Pharmacists Ordinance Bill
MK Khenin (Hadash) explained that his amendment would require the mandatory collection, enforced by pharmacies, of therapeutic drugs that could cause environmental damage. He said that recycling must be encouraged in general and recycling materials that are directly hazardous to the environment are a public obligation. He decided to pull the bill and delay the vote after seeing that he didn’t have a majority to pass it.
Temporary Order Amendment on the Real Property Tax Bill
MK Gafni (U.T.J.) explained the amendment would increase the supply of residential apartments on the open market by eliminating certain taxes on those who wish to sell more than one of their apartments at once. He explained the bill will be retroactive to January 1st, 2011, and will be a temporary order that will expire next year.
The bill passed its second reading 16-0.
The bill passed its third reading 18-0.