Wednesday’s session lasted about eight and a half hours. Ten bills were discussed. Six bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, three were turned into motions to avoid defeat and one was defeated. The highlight of the day was the Knesset extending the state of emergency that Israel has faced since its creation for another year. The bill that received the most buzz was one that would allow the reelection of the Chief Rabbi of Israel to multiple ten-year terms. Two bills advanced dealt with increasing those eligible for the Polio Compensation Bill, and another bill dealt with giving men sanctions for not granting a woman a divorce. The other two bills that were advanced included one that would shorten the time students have to wait to receive their degree benefits and one that would widen the eligibility criteria for businesses entitled to financial compensation from the State after being forced to relocate as a result of the disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria.
- Defense Security Minister Vilnai (Independence), Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.), Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) and Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) answered urgent queries at the start of the session.
- The recommendation of the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to renew the declared state of emergency for another year was discussed by 13 MKs and approved 28-11.
- Seven motions were discussed and sent for further discussion to various committees by the votes 13-0, 12-0, 5-0, 6-0, 19-0, 7-0 and 6-0.
- Deputy Education Minister Moses (U.T.J.) answered two queries at the end of the session.
Amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance
MK Shemtov (Y.B.) explained that her amendment would allow college graduates to receive their academic credit and pay raise immediately after they graduate or after they complete their required internship. She stated that until now graduates would have to wait for the following tax year to receive their benefits and those who have internships sometimes wait two years.
MK Tibi (R.T.) got up to speak because the government gave up their right to give their opinion. He started blasting Netanyahu’s U.S. Congress speech and was heckled by several MKs, most notably MK Orlev (J.H.), who Tibi called an embarrassment to the Knesset. Deputy Speaker Levy-Abekasis kept order during Tibi’s three minute speech. Tibi blasted Netanyahu and his coalition partners.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 32-0 and was sent to the Funds Committee.
Two Amendments to the Polio Compensation Bill
MK Pinyan (Likud) explained that his amendment would allow those who were diagnosed with polio abroad or Israelis who were diagnosed with polio before 1948 would receive the full rights and compensation as indicated in the Polio Compensation Bill. He said this bill would help about 600 polio patients who have discriminated against.
MK Khenin (Hadash) explained his similar amendment would include giving the full compensation package to all polio patients who are citizens of and living in Israel.
Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) expressed government support for both bills.
The first bill passed its preliminary reading 34-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.
The second bill passed its preliminary reading 36-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.
Amendment to the Disengagement Plan Implementation Bill
MK Elkin (Likud) explained this was the third amendment to broaden the eligibility for compensation under the bill. He announced this amendment would compensate those who lost their businesses in the disengagement.
Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) expressed government support for the bill.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 34-1 and was sent to the Funds Committee.
Motion/Amendment to the Israel National Toll Road Bill
MK Tirosh (Kadima) explained that her amendment would force the Route 6 providers to erect electronic information signs about traffic congestion in places where the driver can take an alternate route. She gave an example of such a sign that tells drivers whether they should take route 1 or route 443 based on traffic reports. She announced the bill also asks for the publication of a phone number that drivers could call and get traffic reports for Route 6. A third addition to the bill would be to exempt drivers from paying the toll fee if they were not warned that Route 6 was congested. Speaker Rivlin agreed with Tirosh and said that if someone pays for a swift service and doesn’t receive it they should not have to pay for it and should be compensated.
Science and Technology Minister Hershkowitz (J.H.) announced the bill would cost too much money but the government agrees with it in principle. He explained that the government needs to pay the difference if the Route 6 owners don’t make a set amount of money. He suggested turning the bill into a motion. Tirosh agreed.
The motion passed 43-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.
Amendment to the Fuel Tax Bill
MK Molla (Kadima) explained that his amendment would increase the control and supervision over the fuel tax rate. He accused Coalition Chairman Elkin (Likud) of Soviet communism for not allowing his co-sponsor MK Regev (Likud) to vote for their bill. He slammed Netanyahu and his government for increasing indirect taxes and called it a bad government.
Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) stated that the bill asks the Funds Committee to authorize the taxes that the Finance Committee approves. He noted that certain taxes go through the Finance Committee and certain taxes go through the Funds Committee and it would lower the status of both committees if taxes needed to be approved by both. Cohen announced that Molla was a member of the Finance Committee and wondered why he would want to reduce his power and authority to influence such a matter.
MK Molla ignored Cohen and blasted the government for five minutes. He ended by saying the government was raping its citizens.
MK Elkin blasted Molla for calling him a Soviet communist and wished that Molla and Israel never learn what Soviet communism really is. Molla did not stay in the plenum for Elkin’s rebuttal.
The bill was defeated 30-42.
Establishing the State Revenue Fund for the Distribution of Fuel Taxes Bill/Motion
MK Gilon (Meretz) blasted Likud and Kadima for not adopting his socialist financial plans. He said if the government is going to have indirect taxes they should develop a revenue fund for the purpose of public transportation. He stated he believes in free public transportation but for this capitalistic government he believes this is an adequate alternative. He noted that in England 80% of its citizens commute to work by public transportation, compared to 20% in Israel. He called on the government to support his bill or adopt his socialist financial outlook.
Deputy Finance Minister Cohen expressed government opposition to the bill and asked Gilon to turn the bill into a motion. Gilon agreed.
The motion passed 23-0 and was sent to the Funds Committee.
Amendment to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel Bill
MK Aflalo (Kadima) explained his amendment would allow candidates to present themselves for re-election as the Chief Rabbi of Israel and end the current one-term limit in place.
Environment Minister Erdan expressed government support for the bill. He said the term limit was enacted in the 1980’s and stated that the 150-member body that chooses the Chief Rabbi has no objection to reverting back to pre-1980s.
MK Horowitz (Meretz) labeled the bill the ‘Amar and Metzger Bill’ because it will take place for the current elections and not from the next elections. He charged that this is a Kadima-Likud-Labor agreement to re-elect Rabbis that are comfortable for them. He noted that a term is ten years and it is crazy to believe that someone can hold a public position for twenty years after being elected only twice. He said that by taking away the term limit a person would be able to hold that position indefinitely. He rejected claims that Rabbi Amar is liberal and called him a moderate at best.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 43-6 and was sent to the Law Committee.
Ban on Disconnecting Electricity and Water Services to Educational Institutions Bill/Motion
MK Khenin explained his bill would prevent the disconnecting of electricity or plumbing to all educational institutions even if they have never paid their utility bills. He stressed that children’s health is among the most important things and it is impossible for them to be without working toilets, drinking water and lights. He expressed his communist views that no one should have to pay for utilities and they should be free.
National Infrastructure Minister Landau (Likud) said he agreed with the bill in principle but stressed it wasn’t practical because the educational institutions will use the bill as a way to get out of paying their utilities without fear they will be disconnected. He stated that everyone needs to pay for each service they receive and that nothing is free.
MK Orlev (J.H.) noted that hospitals are exempt from being disconnected and said that schools should also join that list.
Minister Landau suggested the bill be turned into a motion, and Khenin agreed.
The motion passed 18-0 and was sent to the House Committee to choose the relevant committee for discussion.
Amendment to the Rabbinical Courts Bill
MK Schneller (Kadima) explained his amendment addresses the Rabbinical courts that hold judgments on laws of divorce. He stated that the amendment would help enforce court orders for husbands to give a woman her divorce. He listed the sanctions a person would receive for not giving a woman her divorce within 45 days of a court order: freeze of assets, confiscation of drivers’ license, freezing the sale of property, a court order forbidding him from leaving the country and eventually jail time if none of the above is successful. He noted that the bill allows the man to appeal any of the above punishments to a higher court to be heard within 30 days of his sentence. He expressed hope that this bill would lower the number of men who refuse to give a woman a divorce. He said he fought government opposition to the bill from the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs.
Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bill.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 13-0 and was sent to the Law Committee.