The Knesset’s Wednesday session lasted about eight and a half hours. Ten bills were discussed. Five bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings. Three bills were withdrawn to avoid defeat, one bill was turned into a motion, and one was defeated. The Outpost Bill was the last bill on the agenda and the debate was among this term’s hottest. MK Katzeleh went red in the face, his body shook, and he almost fell to the floor as he screamed at the government ministers who had flipflopped in their decision on how to vote at the last minute. Prime Minister Netanyahu got involved in the heated debate, and eventually the vote was delayed for two weeks.
- Justice Minister Neeman, Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) and Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.
- Six of the nine motions discussed were sent to committee by the votes 5-0, 4-0, 5-0, 11-0, 8-0 and 4-0. Two motions were defeated 6-7 and 2-2. One motion was not voted on.
- House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced which committees would discuss which bills. The committee’s decision was approved 9-0.
Amendment to the Railways Ordinance Bill
MK Maklev (U.T.J.) explained his amendment will reduce the fines for riding without a local train ticket. He said that thousands of people have complained to his office about getting tickets unjustifiably. He explained that even people with free monthly passes were given fines. He blasted the light rail company Citipass for fining people when they knew they were wrong. He slammed Citipass for fining people who paid but had their spouse’s bus card. He noted problems with signage, machines and transfers from Egged. He spent ten minutes giving examples of people being arrested because they didn’t have identification on them, turning them into criminals. He said an NIS 180 fine is unacceptable. He thanked Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) for supporting the bill but slammed the finance ministry for opposing his bill that would lower fines. He slammed Citipass for giving fines to mothers with strollers. He criticized the government for opposing his bill and decided to postpone the vote on his bill to a later date.
Amendment to the Knesset Bill
MK Naffaa (Balad) explained his amendment would regulate party funding distribution in the case of a faction of three MKs where one MK wants to withdraw and the other two MKs deny the third MK the right to split. He slammed Balad for taking him out of their party and not giving him his MK rights. He stressed this bill will fix his personal problem. He said it is ethically wrong to use an MK for his money but refuse to give him parliamentary tools. He decided to postpone the vote on his bill to a later date.
Motion/Amendment to the Interference with Elections Prohibition Bill
MK Solodkin (Kadima) explained her amendment would punish those who prohibit ultra-orthodox women from voting in elections. She brought up a case in the ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem where women were not allowed to vote in the local neighborhood elections. She said that the punishment for this offence would be between two and three years. She expressed disappointment that the government opposed the bill and agreed to turn the bill into a motion.
Religious Services Minister Margi (Shas) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that the punishment is too severe. He agreed to discuss the bill in committee as a motion.
The motion passed 15-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.
Two Amendments to the Independence Day Bill
MK Shemtov (Y.B.) explained the amendment would change the date of Independence Day to the Thursday closest to the 4th of Iyar instead of on the 4th of Iyar itself.
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) explained his similar bill would accomplish the same thing. He noted that he has tried to get this bill passed since his election to Knesset in 2006. He said the long weekend will be a great idea.
Tourism Minister Misezhnikov (Y.B.) expressed government support for the bill. He noted that in most years Independence Day has not been celebrated on the 4th of Iyar.
MK Ben Ari (N.U.) opposed the bill and told the MKs supporting the bill they should be ashamed of themselves. He said Independence Day is not about the long weekend and parties and stressed it is about the holiness of the day.
MK Zeev (Shas) opposed the bill and asked when he is supposed to say Hallel- on the 4th of Iyar or on the Thursday. He said that the 4th of Iyar is a symbol and should not be moved. He stated this change is not what the public wants and religious people will be very angry if this bill passes. He said it is not up to the Knesset to change holidays, even if it is a national holiday and not a religious one.
MK Shemtov responded that the 4th of Iyar is holy but the people’s wishes need to be taken into account.
The first bill passed its preliminary reading 35-4 and was sent to the Culture Committee.
The second bill passed its preliminary reading 35-4 and was sent to the Culture Committee.
Amendment to the Transport Ordinance Bill
MK Bielski (Kadima) explained the amendment would regulate the issue of bicycles on highways. He stated that 15 bicycle riders are killed every year and 80 are injured seriously among the 300 bicycle injuries a year. He said the long list of regulations would allow bicycles on highways during certain hours.
Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) expressed government support for the bill but noted that some of the regulations written in the bill need to be changed.
MK Yoel Hasson opposed the bill and slammed the restrictions on the bicycle riders. He said that overall this bill will reduce the number of bicycle riders because of the restrictions on using headphones. He said that he will fight for cyclist rights.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 25-0 with 3 MKs abstaining and was sent to the Finance Committee.
Amendment to the Plant Protection Bill
MK Molla (Kadima) explained his amendment would exempt certain provisions of the bill for teff grains. He said that teff grains are a popular Ethiopian food and this bill will make importing easier for an important food that is not grown in Israel. He said it is a healthy food and the government should help out here.
Agriculture Minister Noked (Independence) expressed government support for the bill. She noted that it would have to reflect the international agreements that Israel has signed.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 24-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.
Amendment to the Organ Transplant Bill
MK Gal-On (Meretz) explained her amendment would give priority to a relative in cases of living donor organ donations. She said that the benefits that are given to deceased organ donors should also be given to live donors and that live donors should get an additional bonus. She said that this bill will encourage people to give their live organs. She noted that the bill would place live organ donors highest on the organ donor list in cases of need.
Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) expressed government support for the bill.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 33-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.
Amendment to the Local Authorities Bill
MK Barakeh (Hadash) explained his amendment would apply municipal property tax exemptions currently in place for soldiers, victims of war and police to young couples as well. He said the current system discriminates against Arabs since they don’t serve the country.
Religious Services Minister Margi expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that there is a government committee that is discussing the issue and there is no need for the bill until the committee submits its results.
The bill was defeated 14-34.
Respecting the Rights of the Founders of Buildings in Judea and Samaria Bill
MK Katzeleh (N.U.) waved to the hundreds of residents of the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El who were sitting in the gallery. He said that the decree that would evict them from their homes by July 1st is unacceptable. He thanked Speaker Rivlin for agreeing that this bill is legal and constitutional. He explained that if a house is built in any part of Israel and there is government support through signatures and infrastructure, and it turns out that the land purchased belongs to someone else and that is proven by the Supreme Court, the government will seize the land and compensate the original owner financially. He stressed that the arrangement of knocking down houses or evicting people in these cases won’t happen. He revealed that he met with Prime Minister Netanyahu who asked him to delay the bill by two weeks. He told the residents of Judea and Samaria to look at the Likud and this nationalist government that is instructing the government to vote against the solution to their problems. He noted that most of the 65 nationalist MKs wanted to vote for this bill and Prime Minister Netanyahu is preventing them from doing so. He asked why Defense Minister Barak or some random lawyer has more influence over Netanyahu than his natural partners. He looked at the nationalist MKs and asked them how they can have hearts of stone. He charged that they don’t care about throwing people out of their homes. He called on coalition MKs to support the bill. He said Netanyahu is sending him messages asking him to delay the vote but he refuses. He told the MKs trying to convince him to drop the bill and be a politician that he isn’t a politician. He said even if the bill falls it is important that one Jew stands up and says enough is enough. He asked where the hearts are of the MKs and told them that they have no heart.
Minister Begin (Likud) responded that the government opposes the bill on the grounds that they requested two weeks to examine a different solution to the Ulpana problem before bringing this bill to a vote. He said that Katzeleh’s decision to vote on the bill instead of waiting forces the government’s hand to oppose it. He responded that he has a heart and it isn’t a heart of stone, it is a heart of responsibility that goes hand in hand with the brain and common sense. He said that the issues this bill causes are of greater concern than its benefits. MK Ben Ari (N.U.) heckled Begin and was thrown out by Speaker Rivlin. This led to heckling from the Arab and Meretz MKs. Begin called on Katzeleh to withdraw the bill for the sake of the 350,000 residents of Judea and Samaria. MK Zahalka (Balad) was thrown out by Speaker Rivlin for heckling as well.
MK Katzeleh apologized for getting overly emotional and the things that he said. He thanked the government, including Minister Mofaz (Kadima) and Defense Minister Barak (Independence), for building up Judea and Samaria. He said that the government can decide to override a court sentence for justice as they do in prisoner exchanges. He told Prime Minister Netanyahu that Netanyahu’s people asked his Rabbi, Rav Melamed, to postpone the vote on the bill.
Prime Minister Netanyahu responded that he didn’t ask Katzeleh to postpone the bill and he should bring it if he wanted to. He rejected Katzeleh’s claim that he sent messengers to Rav Melamed.
MK Katzeleh decided to withdraw his bill.
Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) said the government’s position is that if Katzeleh decides to withdraw the bill, the government will support that move.
Speaker Rivlin agreed and announced that since the MK and government agree the vote on the bill will be postponed for two weeks.
This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s May 23, 2012, session.
Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/02514012.doc