The Knesset’s Wednesday session lasted about five hours. Six bills were discussed. Two bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, two bills avoided defeat by being turned into motions, and two bills were defeated. The bills advanced place term limits on the President of the Sharia Court of Appeal and merge the five Israeli medical exams into one standardized test that will allow Israeli medical students to graduate six months earlier. The last round of changes to the Knesset protocols was approved, completing a three year plan of protocol changes.
- Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.), Deputy Education Minister Moses (U.T.J.) and Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon (Y.B.) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the Knesset session.
- Speaker Rivlin gave a warm speech greeting the President of the Czech Republic’s parliament.
- Two of the six motions discussed were sent to committee for further discussion by the votes 8-0 and 4-0. One motion was defeated 4-55, and three motions were not voted on.
- House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced this is a special day because it involves the last round of updates to the official Knesset rules and protocols book. He explained the biggest change of the last round would be prohibiting committee votes while the plenum is in session. He said he is proud to present the changes to a vote after dozens of committee meetings over the last three years. It was approved 27-0 with one MK abstaining.
Amendment to the Qadis Bill
MK Majadele (Labor) explained the amendment shortens the term of office for the President of the Sharia Court of Appeal to seven years. He said the current President has been in office 18 years. He asked how every single position in Israeli democracy needs to be elected or has a term limit except for this one.
Justice Minister Neeman expressed his personal and government support for the bill. He said that there are cases where retroactive legislation is needed to correct a wrong and this is one of them.
MK Tibi (R.T.) said he supports limiting terms of high-level government officials but he stressed his opposition to retroactive and personal bills. He said that this is a way for the government to kick out a great man of integrity who was going to resign in a year anyway. He said that this is a personal political vendetta by the government against an esteemed and popular Muslim judge. He called on Justice Minister Neeman to use common sense, call the judge, have a conversation and abolish the retroactive clause of the bill.
MK Majadele rejected Tibi’s claims, noting that the original bill was also a personal bill meant to allow the judge to sit in the President’s chair for 18 years. He said that there is no place in a democracy for a dictatorship.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 35-10 and was sent to the Justice Committee.
Amendment to the Students’ Rights Bill
MK Eldad (N.U.) explained the amendment would merge into one test the five final exams medical students take after they finish medical school in order to get their medical license. He noted 23 countries have abandoned the six month multi-test system and moved to a standard test.
Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) expressed government support for the bill. He said that this bill will allow medical students to graduate six months earlier, which will help Israel’s doctor shortage.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 24-1 and was sent to the Education Committee.
Motion/Amendment to the Planning and Building Bill
MK El-Sana (R.T.) explained the amendment would fund programs to legalize the illegal Bedouin communities in the Negev. He said that these citizens are looked upon as second class. He noted that some of these illegal settlements have between 1,000 to 2,000 residents each. He charged that the government’s committee on solving the problem is not showing results. He asked why dealing with a few hundred Jews in Migron and Ulpana is more important than thousands of Arabs. He said there is plenty of room for compromise since 8% of Israel’s population lives in the Negev, which makes up 60% of the country’s land mass.
Minister Begin (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill. He agreed with El-Sana that there is a big problem but disagreed that this is the solution. He noted that over time the government has helped resettle and legalize the Negev Bedouins and less than a third of the Bedouins are still up in the air. He asked for El-Sana’s cooperation in helping him help the people that are left. He stated that those who do not wish to compromise will never find a real solution. He said the government does not even know how many people live in these Bedouin towns, estimating it is between 70,000 and 90,000 people. He said he has met personally with 500 Bedouins to hear their side and asked El-Sana to continue that dialogue by turning the bill into a motion.
MK El-Sana asked Begin what solution he offers the Bedouins in the meantime before a final solution is agreed upon. He agreed to turn the bill into a motion and discuss the matter in committee.
The motion passed 39-2-1 and was sent to the Interior Committee.
Motion/Amendment to the Planning and Building Bill
MK Swaid (Hadash) explained his amendment would grant tax exemption eligibility on real estate and government assistance for young couples seeking housing. He said that this will bring down the prices of housing for young couples and make housing attainable. He stated the government should adopt more of a socialist housing model that will ensure housing for everyone.
Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds of financial constraints. He agreed the principle of the bill is very positive and asked Swaid to agree to turn the bill into a motion in order to discuss the issue in committee. Swaid agreed.
The motion passed 24-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.
Amendment to the Social Security Bill
MK Gilon (Meretz) explained his amendment would grant certain benefits to disabled citizens who are reaching the age of retirement. He said that disabled people who are old suffer from two problems and they should receive double compensation from the government. He said his amendment would allow double welfare for disabled senior citizens from the age of 65. He said that as a socialist he supports high taxes and stressed that is the only way to maintain a welfare state. He stated that if a citizen is handicapped he should have all of his needs provided by the government and an NIS 10,000 monthly salary.
Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds of financial constraints. He said that handicapped people who cannot work receive NIS 4,000 a month until they reach the age of retirement at 67 and then they are entitled to an NIS 4,200 senior citizen monthly welfare payment. He said the government cannot afford to give senior citizens a two-year double welfare payment since it would cost hundreds of millions of shekels.
MK Gilon said the argument is who is paying what and who is receiving what. He said the government’s priorities are messed up and should be corrected. He told the government to stop trying to help the rich and to start helping the poor, adding that is true equality.
The bill was defeated 20-40.
Reward Soldiers in Regular Service Bill
Minister Begin responded to Peretz’s bill that would give soldiers minimum wage salaries in the last third of their military service. He said that the government opposes the bill because of financial constraints. He agreed that soldiers deserve that money but said the government cannot afford the billions of shekels needed to fund the program. He did stress that the government is working on their own bill that will increase the financial compensation to soldiers but will not go as far as this bill.
MK Peretz (Labor) asked Kadima, whose MKs are co-sponsors, in the name of deceased co-sponsor Kadima MK Gideon Ezra, to support the bill they gave their signature to. He slammed the government for lying to him and delaying the bill for two weeks when they knew they weren’t going to support the bill. He refused to wait for the government bill because he said that the government can’t be trusted and they will never present the bill. He warned Kadima that if they vote against the bill they will be punished since this will be an election year.
The bill was defeated 15-30.
This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s May 30, 2012, session.
Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/02618812.doc