Last Wednesday’s session lasted about twelve and a half hours. Nine bills were discussed. Two bills were advanced after passing their preliminary reading, six were defeated, and one was turned into a motion to avoid defeat. Netanyahu survived a discussion requested by 40 MKs on the topic titled ‘The Netanyahu government’s failure in the political, economic and social sectors’.
- Home Front Security Minister Vilnai (Independence), Housing and Construction Minister Atias (Shas), Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud), Justice Minister Neeman and Tourism Minister Misezhnikov (Y.B.) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.
- A discussion requested by 40 MKs was held on the topic of ‘The Netanyahu government’s failure in the political, economic and social sectors’. 14 MKs spoke on the subject. Prime Minister Netanyahu responded and Opposition Leader Livni followed with her speech. Netanyahu’s response was accepted by the plenum with a 49-36 vote.
- House Committee Chairman Levin explained that he is requesting changes to the Knesset rulebook regarding committees that appoint state positions (chief rabbi, judges, etc) and who is qualified to begin and end a “state of emergency”. The requests were approved 12-1 and 12-1.
- 11 motions were discussed. Seven motions were passed and sent to committees for further discussion by votes of 11-1, 10-0, 12-0, 8-0, 11-0, 7-0 and 6-0. Two motions were defeated 2-7 and 1-3, and two more were not voted on. Those four motions will not be discussed further.
- Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) answered two queries towards the end of the session.
Amendment to the Students’ Rights Bill
MK Miller (Y.B.) explained that his amendment would prohibit discrimination of students on the basis of country of origin. He stated that many cities choose to prohibit certain immigrant groups from enrolling into certain schools and this bill will prohibit that.
Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) expressed government support for the bill.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 43-0 and was sent to the Education Committee.
Amendment to the National Health Insurance Bill
MK Oron (Meretz) explained that his amendment would transfer more responsibility for the reimbursement of hospitalization care payments from the hospitals to the kupot cholim (insurance companies). He announced that hospital meals will be among the additions of the bill. He noted that this would require a raise in the national health insurance taxes of about NIS 30 per month for the higher tax brackets. He said it is the responsibility of the younger generation to pay higher health insurance bills for the older generation who can’t afford it.
Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) expressed government support for the bill and asked Oron not to take too much credit. He noted similar bills had been raised over the years. He stated that this comes as the third part of his ministry’s reform, following free dental work for children and reforming the mental health institutions.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 65-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.
Amendment to the Planning and Construction Bill
MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained that his amendment would reduce the level of cellular radiation by prohibiting big antennas and replacing them with small antennas. He cited studies that prove antennas cause radiation that result in cancer and death. He said that the communications minister and the environment ministry official in charge of radiation support the bill and he expects Environment Minister Erdan to follow suit. He noted that many western countries have a similar law.
Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) opposed the bill. He wondered why Sheetrit didn’t propose this bill when he was Interior Minister in charge of implementing this bill. He charged that this bill was a lobbyist bill of the cellular companies that will help them cut corners of government bureaucracy. He called Sheetrit a liar, claiming that the environment ministry official in charge of radiation spoke in front of the ministerial committee of legislative affairs in opposition of the bill. He slammed Sheetrit for proposing a bill that will allow cellular companies to place antennas in front of people’s houses without allowing citizens the right of appeal. He stated that a Supreme Court ruling against the cellular companies labeled this bill undemocratic.
MK Sheetrit told Erdan that after two years in office he should stop blaming the previous administration. He screamed at Erdan for rejecting his bill without offering a solution to the high radiation levels. He rejected Erdan’s approach and charged him with personally harming the environment and raising the radiation levels in Israel. He rejected the Supreme Court ruling and called on Erdan to have some guts and overrule them.
MK Itzik (Kadima) said it bothered her that Erdan and Sheetrit were fighting and asked for the two to come to some sort of compromise.
Environment Minister Erdan charged that Itzik was breaking Knesset protocol by butting in to a bill that she didn’t propose. He explained that the bill is illegal and undemocratic. He said that the lobbyist bill will hurt individuals and help the cellular companies cut corners.
MK Sheetrit criticized Minister Erdan for screaming at him and Deputy Speaker Akunis for handling the room poorly.
The bill was defeated 23-57.
Civil Marriage Bill
MK Sheetrit explained that his amendment would present a solution to those who wish to get married and don’t qualify for marriage under Jewish law. He said that the bill is carefully phrased and doesn’t violate Jewish law. He said a solution must be found to prevent people from flying to Cyprus to get married. He said that as a traditional Jew he supports Jewish law marriage, but feels a solution must be given to those who don’t qualify for it.
Justice Minister Neeman expressed government opposition to the bill. He said that a government bill was passed last year that allows two people who can’t be married by Jewish law to get married civilly. He stated that Sheetrit’s bill, which covers situations where only one side is not able to be married under Jewish law, would be a violation of Jewish law. He noted that it is a delicate subject that is being discussed by a ministerial committee and asked to allow them to solve it.
MK Molla (Kadima) screamed at Neeman for a solid five minutes and blasted his policies. He said that if someone is allowed to make aliyah they should be allowed to get married in Israel too.
The bill was defeated 26-51-4.
Amendment to the Planning and Construction Bill
MK Zoabi (Balad) explained that her amendment would allow citizens to report social workers and welfare officers for crimes committed during violent cases where children are taken away from their parents. She explained that welfare officers receive full reign and are allowed to damage property, physically abuse, steal and use profanity against the parents while taking away their children. She noted that the court takes children particularly from illegally-built homes and therefore feels free to trash these homes. She went over her time by several minutes and refused to step down from the podium, despite several requests by Deputy Speaker Akunis.
Environment Minister Erdan opposed the bill. He called it a politically driven bill. He said that the court already hears these types of cases, and this bill is biased against the welfare officers.
The bill was defeated 8-28.
MK Levy-Abekasis (Y.B.) said that she supported Zoabi’s bill and said that what concerned her was the best interest of the children.
Amendment to the Municipal Taxes and the Government Taxes Ordinance Bill
MK Swaid (Hadash) explained that his amendment would create a fund for the distribution of government agencies’ assets. He explained that this bill would create a big fund that would raise more money for the local authorities and divide the profits equally. He said this will help the poor local authorities survive.
Distribution of Property Tax Money Paid to a Fund from the Assets Held by Public Bodies Bill
MK Zahalka (Balad) said that his similar bill was in fact a government bill that was part of the Arrangements Bill. He announced the government decided to pull the bill when the mayors of the rich cities fought it.
Environment Minister Erdan opposed both bills. He said the government is looking into other ways to help the poor local authorities and it shouldn’t come at the expense of the local authorities that are run well.
MK Swaid asked Erdan the next time he responds to his bill to do so objectively and not emotionally with rage.
The first bill was defeated 14-36.
The second bill was defeated 11-36-1.
Amendment to the National Health Insurance Bill
MK Tibi (R.T.) said that the long waits for appointments are unacceptable and alleged that some patients die while they are waiting for months for their appointments. He explained that his amendment would place a limit on appointment wait times for all medical treatments.
Deputy Health Minister Litzman said that he approves of the bill but the government opposes it. He said the system has problems, but it remains the envy of most nations.
The bill was defeated 12-23.
Motion/Amendment to the Penal Code Bill
MK Solodkin (Kadima) explained that her amendment would prohibit women from covering their faces with a veil or a burka in public. She blasted Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews who wear such things and said there is no place in a democratic state for this degradation of women.
Justice Minister Neeman said he is glad that the biggest problem in Israeli society is women wearing burkas. Solodkin didn’t laugh. Neeman said that he is against the bill and called the 30-day jail time the bill requires ludicrous. He attempted not to laugh when he read that according to the bill a repeated offender would spend six months in jail. He suggested turning the bill into a motion. He called the bill a violation of religious rights and freedom of expression.
MK Regev (Likud) announced that she agreed to her similar bill being merged with MK Solodkin’s and turned into a motion. MK Solodkin also agreed.
The motion passed 12-2 and was sent to the Law Committee.