Last Wednesday’s session lasted about nine and a half hours. 18 bills were discussed. Nine bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, seven bills were turned into motions to avoid defeat and two bills were defeated. The many bills advanced address placing sanctions on Israeli companies that work with Iran, sentencing security prisoners to the remainder of their previous term if they were released during a prisoner swap, presenting awards for corruption whistleblowers, forcing local authorities to paint their curbs before collecting money from drivers, allowing former army officers to teach in schools while collecting their pension and dividing up a husband’s pension in divorce settlements, among other things. MK Tirosh (Kadima) gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a container of cottage cheese during the 40-MK signature session as Netanyahu ate wafers. The European Parliament President addressed the Knesset in Polish.
- Minister Begin (Likud), Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) and Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.
- European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek was welcomed with a warm speech by Speaker Rivlin. Buzek addressed the plenum in Polish.
- The Knesset brought in Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak on the subject of “The Netanyahu government’s failure in the political, economic and social sectors” by the mandate of 40 MKs’ signatures. 16 MKs spoke before Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Opposition Leader Livni spoke after him. The Knesset accepted Netanyahu’s speech by a vote of 37-25.
- Six motions were discussed and sent to various committees for further discussion by the votes 11-1, 7-0, 7-0, 6-0, 5-0 and 4-0.
Amendment to the Rabbinical Courts Bill
MK Orlev (J.H.) explained his amendment would strengthen restraining orders and sanctions on those refusing divorce and the supervision of the implementation of the court decisions in that regard.
Minister Begin (Likud) expressed government support for the bill. He recalled when he had to step in as a judge and how much it bothered him to wear a jacket and tie.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 17-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.
Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill
MK Orbach (J.H.) explained his amendment would place the duty of marking curbs within municipal boundaries on the local authorities. He explained that if the local authority doesn’t paint the curbs red and white or blue and white it will not be able to collect money or fines from drivers in that area. He stressed the cities must spend money on paint if they want to put their hand into the drivers’ wallets.
Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) expressed government support for the bill.
MK Tibi (R.T.) objected to the bill on the grounds that the government isn’t living up to their responsibilities towards the transportation infrastructure for the Israeli-Arab towns.
MK Hotovely (Likud) defended the bill and said this will prevent cities from fining or charging drivers in cases where there is no paint on the curbs.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 27-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.
Amendment to the Prohibiting Investment in Corporations that Maintain a Business Relationship with Iran Bill
MK Shama (Likud) explained his amendment would prohibit all Israeli companies from having any communication with the Iranian government or Iranian companies. He said that Israel must place the same sanctions on Israelis that contact Iran as the Americans already have. He said the punishment includes fines of millions of shekels and jail time.
Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) expressed government support for the bill on the preliminary reading but said Shama will have to wait for government support on the bill’s next steps.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 24-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.
Amendment to the Terms of Release from Imprisonment to Probation Bill
MK Danon (Likud) explained his amendment would require security prisoners who committed crimes for nationalistic reasons and were released in a prisoner swap and who return to terrorism to finish their first sentence before starting their second. He announced that he is pulling the bill because the government wants to expand it.
Minister Begin expressed government support for the bill and asked Danon not to pull it. He said the government will advance a larger-scale bill later but it is important to send a message to the prisoners by passing this bill now.
MK Tibi objected to the bill on the grounds that all security prisoners should be released at once. He suggested releasing all the Arabs from prison in return for Gilad Shalit. He warned Danon not to try the Palestinian prisoners because they will fight back.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 17-9 and was sent to the Justice Committee.
Amendment to the Local Authorities Elections Funding Bill
MK Gafni (U.T.J.) explained his amendment would place the financial responsibility of joint electoral party factions on the biggest party and not the others in local elections. He noted the government has no opinion on the bill because it is an internal party matter.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 24-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.
Amendment to the Career Service in the Israel Defense Forces Bill
MK Haim Katz (Likud) explained his amendment would allow army retirees to teach in schools and still be eligible for their army pensions.
Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) expressed government support for the bill and said this will improve the quality of teachers in the schools.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 22-0 and was sent to the Labor Committee.
Dividing Pension Rights between Couples Bill
MK Gal-On (Meretz) explained her original bill would divide the pension of the husband so that the wife receives half of it in a divorce settlement.
Deputy Finance Minister Cohen expressed government support for the bill.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 26-0 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.
MK Hermesh (Kadima) explained his original bill would cover every law necessary for shepherds including territory, animal rights, natural resources, arguments between shepherds and more. He concluded by saying that, as a farmer, he knows that you can make a profit on cottage cheese at 5 shekels and that 8 shekels is ridiculous.
Agriculture Minister Noked (Independence) expressed government support for the bill.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 30-1 and was sent to the Finance Committee. MK Tirosh (Kadima) voted against the bill.
Amendment to the Encouraging Public Service Integrity Bill
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) explained his amendment would grant authority to the President of Israel to give a certificate of appreciation to those who reveal corruption. He praised corruption whistleblowers and called on more of them to come forth. He concluded by calling the three cottage cheese companies a cartel and called on the entire public to boycott their products.
Minister Begin expressed government support for the bill. He disagreed with Hasson’s cartel remark and warned him to be careful with what he says on the Knesset podium.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 38-0 and was sent to the State Control Committee.
Motion/Amendment to the Social Security Bill
MK Adatto (Kadima) explained her amendment would lower the social security payments of students who are studying medicine in an institution of higher education abroad to the level of those who are studying medicine in Israel. She said that today those who learn abroad pay two and a half times more than those who learn here. She noted only about 1,500 students would be affected by this bill.
Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) said he agrees in principle with the bill but explained it was written vaguely and could cause problems of discrimination. He suggested turning the bill into a motion in order to discuss it further in committee. Adatto agreed.
The motion passed 38-0 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.
Motion/Amendment to the Security Agency Bill
MK Bibi (Kadima) explained his amendment would require a criminal record check before assigning someone to the Border Police.
Intelligence Minister Meridor (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill and suggested turning the bill into a motion. Bibi agreed.
The motion passed 46-0 and was sent to the Defense Committee.
Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Amendment Bill
MK Tiviaev (Kadima) explained his amendment would prohibit the sale of cars that don’t have a seatbelt alert. He added that the duty of installing an audio alert for the driver’s and front passenger’s seatbelt will be placed on the owner of the car. He noted that 12,500 people have been injured over the last eight years because they didn’t wear their seatbelts and that 80% of those accidents occurred in urban areas. He suggested the ministers place their citizens’ lives over politics and support the bill. He placed responsibility for every death that could have been saved by a seatbelt solely on the Israeli government.
Transportation Minister Katz explained that the manufacturers don’t place such alerts on cars sent to Israel and there is a financial aspect to passing such a bill. He said that he supports the bill but the government is opposed to it. He mentioned that even if this law was passed it doesn’t mean that people would listen to the alert and buckle up. He suggested turning the bill into a motion.
MK Tiviaev stressed that 40-50 people die each year because they didn’t buckle up and he places the blame for those deaths on the Israeli government. He rejected the offer to turn the bill into motion.
Transportation Minister Katz asked once again that Tiviaev turn the bill into a motion.
MK Tiviaev rejected the offer for a second time and told the government to accept some responsibility.
The bill was defeated 22-32.
Motion/Amendment to the Criminal Procedure Bill
MK Solodkin (Kadima) explained her amendment would place a prohibition on interrogations and investigations of a suspect at night. She said that these methods are causing innocent people to sign confession papers under duress and she hoped this bill will fix that. She equated current Israeli techniques with those used by the former Soviet Union.
Minister Begin said he agreed in principle with the bill and asked Solodkin if she was willing to turn the bill into a motion. He expressed government opposition to the bill but did not specify why. Solodkin agreed.
The motion passed 23-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.
Amendment to the Benefits for Prisoners of Zion and their Families Bill
Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon explained Solodkin’s amendment would offer an annual grant to the Zion prisoners, who were imprisoned and exiled by the Soviet Union, and said it was a great bill. He agreed that something should be done for the 800 prisoners and asked Solodkin to turn the bill into a motion until the bill receives government support.
MK Solodkin thanked the government for supporting the principle but refused to turn the bill into a motion or to wait for government support before resubmitting her bill.
The bill was defeated 12-24.
Minister Noked voted for the bill though the government opposed it. Deputy Speaker Akunis (Likud) informed Minister Noked that if she voted against the government position she would be automatically fired according to law and suggested she state she voted incorrectly. Noked said she voted incorrectly and was not fired.
Two Motions/Amendments to the Social Security Bill
MK Gilon (Meretz) explained his amendment would grant all people on disability welfare a pension. He said the average welfare a handicapped person receives per month is NIS 2,210. He said his bill would also raise the maximum monthly welfare payment from NIS 2,503 to NIS 3,560.
MK Khenin (Hadash) praised Gilon and explained his similar bill would also help disabled people. He said his bill would double the welfare payment for the disabled and raise it even more for those who don’t have jobs.
Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon expressed government opposition to the bills on the grounds that they would cost six billion shekels to implement. He suggested turning the bills into motions in order to examine whether there are people who really can’t work and, if so, what extra money they should receive.
MK Gilon confessed he didn’t think the government would find the budget for his bill. He stressed the current situation is unacceptable and agreed to turn the bill into a motion. He stressed a mandatory pension is needed to protect the disabled after retirement age.
MK Khenin agreed to turn his bill into a motion as well and to merge it with Gilon’s.
The two motions passed 11-0 and were sent to the Welfare Committee.
Amendment to the Tenders Bill
MK Swaid (Hadash) explained his amendment would introduce affirmative action in order for the Arab population to have representation in government tenders of the high-tech industry. He said the current affirmative action for Arabs doesn’t include high-tech and that is discrimination. He called on the government to find high quality jobs for the Arab population.
Deputy Finance Minister Cohen expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that government tenders are not a place for affirmative action. He said the point of a tender is to find the best company for the job. He added that this bill would discriminate against other minority groups. He asked if Swaid would turn the bill into a motion, and Swaid agreed. MK Rotem (Y.B.) added this bill is racist against anyone who isn’t Arab.
The motion passed 8-2 and was sent to the Finance Committee.
Amendment to the Council for Higher Education Bill
MK Ganaim (R.T.) explained his amendment would abolish the minimum age for studying certain subjects, such as medicine, which now stands at 19. He said he saw no reason why someone who graduates high school at a young age would have to wait until he is 19 to learn certain subjects. He noted that students in most democratic countries start college at 17 or 18 and he didn’t understand where the number 19 came from.
Education Minister Sa’ar expressed government opposition to the bill and said that most democratic countries only allow medicine and other studies as a second degree and students are therefore well over the age of 19. He said that some kids are too immature to deal with complicated situations and it is worth it to make them wait until they mature. He suggested turning the bill into a motion, and Ganaim agreed.
The motion passed 8-0 and was sent to the Education Committee.