The Knesset’s Wednesday session lasted about nine hours. Fourteen bills were discussed. Three bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, six were defeated and five votes were postponed in order to avoid defeat. The bills advanced will force supermarkets to use electronic price displays, close a loophole that allows certain institutions to hire sex offenders as consultants, and define under Israeli law what ‘affordable housing’ really means. Eleven motions were also discussed.
* Homefront Defense Minister Vilnai (Independence), Justice Minister Neeman, Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.), Culture and Sport Minister Livnat (Likud) and Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.
* 11 motions were discussed on a wide range of topics. Nine of the motions were sent for further discussion in the various Knesset committees by the votes 17-0, 14-0, 11-1, 7-1, 6-0, 5-0, 6-0, 6-0 and 9-0. One motion was not voted on. A motion on the Quartet-sponsored resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians in Jordan was defeated 3-4 and will not be discussed further.
* Justice Minister Neeman answered three queries at the end of the session.
Amendment to the Consumer Protection Bill
MK Matalon (Y.B.) explained his amendment would force all supermarkets to post prices for every item on the shelves using an electronic barcode and display. He said this new law will prevent gaps in prices between the sticker and the checkout. He said it will also help people with bad eyesight see the prices more clearly and the green aspect is saving trees by preventing the use of stickers.
Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) explained his ministry is against this bill but a ministers’ majority has awarded it government support. He asked the Knesset to approve the bill, despite the fact that the government doesn’t really want the bill to advance.
Speaker Rivlin pondered why the government would vote for a bill that they oppose.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 32-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.
Amendment to the Preventing Employment of Sex Offenders in Certain Institutions Bill
MK Orlev (J.H.) explained his amendment would prohibit people who work in an institution to directly or indirectly hire a sex offender. He said the current loophole of indirectly hiring a sex offender as a contractor must be closed.
Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) expressed government support for the bill.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 28-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.
Achievable Housing Bill
MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) explained his original bill would define “achievable affordable housing” under Israeli law. He stated that certain areas will be designated as such for a twenty year period and contractors will be given incentives to build smaller apartments in those areas.
MK Bar-On (Kadima) charged that Cohen’s bill is a collection of Kadima bills that were opposed by the government. He said it is unacceptable that the government opposes the same text when it is from the opposition but supports it when it comes from the coalition.
Housing and Construction Minister Atias (Shas) said there is great importance in defining “achievable affordable housing” under Israeli law and expressed government support for the bill.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 53-0 and was sent to the House Committee to determine which committee will discuss the bill.
Return of Akrit and Biram Residents and their Descendents to their Homes Bill
MK Barakeh (Hadash) explained his original bill would allow former Arab residents of Biram and Akrit and their descendents to return to their homes. He noted a 1951 Supreme Court decision that ordered the Israeli government to comply with the Arabs’ request for their right of return. He stated his bill would enforce the Supreme Court decision and promises by the Israeli military of 1948/9. He reported that Biram’s former residents are Israeli citizens and are not living in other countries.
Bureaucracy Minister Eitan (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that Israel needs to remain a Jewish and democratic state. He said that if Jews are evacuated from Gush Katif under that reasoning, then Arabs who were evacuated from their homes hold under the same reasoning.
MK Barakeh dismissed Eitan’s suggestion that government support of the bill would hurt Israel’s demographics since moving Israeli citizens from Haifa to Biram has nothing to do with demographics. He also rejected the comparison with Gush Katif’s former residents, claiming the Katif residents were outside of Israel’s borders.
The bill was defeated 15-51-1.
Basic Law: Judiciary
MK Katzeleh (N.U.) explained his amendment to the Basic Judiciary Law would define when there could be judicial review of the validity of a law. He noted the dozens of MKs from the opposition and coalition that support the bill. He said that it is unacceptable that the Supreme Court can cancel Knesset laws without clear regulations on when the Supreme Court possesses the right to do so. He announced this amendment will define when the Supreme Court can overturn a bill and when it cannot.
Justice Minister Neeman expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that it limits the Supreme Court’s ability to cancel Knesset laws. He said this is a sensitive and delicate matter and the Knesset shouldn’t approve this bill.
MK Katzeleh listed the names of all of the co-sponsors and supporters. He noted Coalition Chairman Elkin (Likud) was not around so the coalition should vote as they wish.
The bill was defeated 3-43.
Amendment to the Business Licensing Bill
MK Zuaretz (Kadima) explained her amendment would regulate spa and massage business licenses. She said that currently the police are not involved in the business license, which creates a loophole that leads to spa/massage prostitution rings. She noted that Israel is among the leading human trafficking countries and this will help lower Israel on that list. She asked why the police are involved in alcohol licenses but not spa licenses. She regretted the government’s opposition to the bill and agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to lobby for support.
Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill
MK Molla (Kadima) explained his amendment would grant an exemption to veterans for their driver’s license registration payment. He charged that if a coalition member had proposed the bill it would have passed. He went on to blast the Kiryat Malachi residents who refuse to sell their homes to Ethiopians. He spoke several minutes on the subject.
Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) announced he supported Molla on the Kiryat Malachi incident and on this bill. He stated the government chose by a majority to oppose the bill on budgetary grounds.
MK Molla said it is unacceptable that the government will charge soldiers and veterans a registration payment they can’t afford.
The bill was defeated 26-37.
Amendment to the Tenders Bill
MK Solodkin (Kadima) explained her amendment would require the representation in government tenders of small and medium-sized enterprises and companies of up to 100 employees. She noted that 97% of Israel’s businesses fit that description and they employ 1.5 million of the 2.7 million salaried workers in Israel’s private sector.
Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that many medium and small businesses are already part of government tenders. He stated there is no reason to pass the bill. He added that affirmative action for small businesses will hurt the customers, who care the most about the final product.
MK Solodkin said her bill is the ABCs of capitalism, the protection of small businesses.
The bill was defeated 24-37.
Social Housing Bill
MK Solodkin announced this is the fifth time she is bringing up her original bill this term and she expects this will be the fifth time it is defeated. She said 50,000 of the 53,000 waiting in line for public housing are immigrants, many of whom have been in line for a decade. She said it is unacceptable to bring over immigrants and not find them housing. She said it is cheaper in the long run to give the poor free social housing instead of paying their rent month after month. She charged the lack of public housing is causing young couples to live with their parents. She concluded that her bill calls for eight percent of all Israeli projects to be set aside for social housing.
Housing and Construction Minister Atias said he agrees with the intention of the bill but the implementation of the bill is lacking. He said that social housing has been on a decline for over twenty years and he is the only one who has increased it over that time. He said that a similar bill proposed by MK Azoulay (Shas), signed by over 50 MKs, doesn’t cost as much money as Solodkin’s bill and that is a version he plans on supporting. He said those waiting in line are having their rent paid and eventually they will move in to their homes.
The bill was defeated 28-35.
Amendment to the Security Service Bill
Homefront Security Minister Vilnai (Independence) responded to MK Yisrael Hasson’s bill that was presented at a previous date on the conditions for women’s exemption from the army for reasons of religious conviction. He called on MK Hasson to postpone the vote on the bill for another three weeks for the government version of the bill.
MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) slammed the government version and said it was unacceptable that the soldiers will stalk 40% of each women’s class every Sabbath to make sure they are really religious. He slammed the coalition for opposing his bill and supporting a more extreme version by the government.
Coalition Chairman Elkin (Likud) responded to MK Hasson and told him he doesn’t understand the government version at all.
The bill was defeated 26-36-9.
Amendment to the Inspection of Commodity Prices and Services Bill
MK Gafni (U.T.J.) revealed that he asked the government to oppose the previous bill and once again it proves how the government has no guts and does what he asks. He said if Kadima didn’t attack the ultra-orthodox he would have brought down the government and gone with Kadima into the next government. He revealed that after the elections he wanted to go with Livni instead of Netanyahu but Livni screwed it up. He explained his amendment would force the government to supervise health food products, such as whole wheat products. He slammed the government for opposing his bill and said it must be because he has caused political problems for the government lately. He stated the health ministry agrees to the bill. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to give the government time to come around.
Three Amendments to the Construction and Evacuation of Development Zones
MK Michaeli (Shas) explained the government supported his amendment but the finance minister appealed the decision and the decision will be postponed for one week. He stated the amendment would allow Kfar Shalem residents the money due to them based on the Evacuation Building Bill. He slammed previous government officials that have prevented giving the residents what they deserve under law. MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) criticized Michaeli for not doing anything for Kfar Shalem’s residents, who happen to be his voters. Michaeli rejected Hasson’s claims.
MK Akunis (Likud) explained his similar amendment would accomplish the same exact thing. He slammed the bureaucrats who have burried this law for decades. He stressed that bureaucrats shouldn’t decide in policy matters which laws they follow and which they choose not to follow. He slammed MK Yoel Hasson for not fixing the situation when Kadima was in charge last term.
MK Gilon (Meretz) explained his similar amendment is just as important as the first two. He slammed Likud, Kadima and Shas. He said that he doesn’t believe any of the amendments will ever pass.
The votes on all three bills were postponed in order to gather government support.
This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s January 4, 2012, session.
Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/00154512.doc