Archive for April, 2010

Knesset Day 3:

Wednesday is almost always the busiest day in Knesset. This week the plenary session lasted almost seven hours. MK Ahmed Tibi’s stubbornness, resulting in his forced removal from the podium, once again made the biggest headline of the day.

Minister of Internal Security Aharonovitz (Y.B.) answered two shailtot.

MK Uri Ariel (N.U.) questioned the police’s involvement with the recent wave of Arabs attacking civilians in Jerusalem’s Silawon neighborhood, particularly on Independence Day. He also requested that the police allow the traditional flag dance around the walls of the old city on Jerusalem Day. Minister Aharonovitz updated Ariel on the status of the arrests of the Arab suspects. He also stated the police have not yet made a decision on the Jerusalem Day issue, while expressing Jews are allowed to walk anywhere they want in Jerusalem as long as they are not putting their lives in danger. MK Azulai (Shas) questioned the investigation of police officers suspected of corruption. The minister responded that he would not make a statement on an ongoing internal investigation.

Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai (Shas) answered two shailtot as well.

MK Chanin (Chadash) questioned the appointment of the former Be’er Sheva mayor as new mayor of Ramat Chovav without a tender. Yishai assured Chanin that every appointment he makes is done within the bounds of the law. MK Zachalka (Balad) questioned the approval of orders prohibiting certain Israeli Arabs from leaving the country. The minister responded that the defense establishment had convinced him to sign the orders.

The Knesset took an hour to vote on four bills today, passing three in their preliminary reading and defeating one.

The vote on MK Amnon Cohen’s (Shas) Antitrust Bill was criticized by Minister of Industry and Trade Ben Eliezer (Labor) as being too capitalistic. The government sided against the bill, but allowed freedom of voting which assisted in the bill passing 39 to 2.

MK Carmel Shamah’s (Likud) “The Lawyers Bar Association Bill” would give the Tel Aviv district more representation in the Bar Association at the cost of the Negev and the Galil. MK Oron (Meretz) slammed the lobbyist bill, which would give the district more power beyond the 63% it already holds. MK Bar-On (Kadima), a lawyer, warned this was an attempted Tel Aviv hostile takeover of the Bar Association. The bill passed despite the objections by a margin of 35 for, 9 against and 1 abstaining, sending the bill to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

The National Health Insurance Bill submitted by MK Adato (Kadima) was endorsed by Deputy Health Minister Litzman (UTJ) and passed 59 to 0. The bill was transferred to the Labor and Social Affairs and Health Committee.

The Nazi war veteran’s bill was submitted by MK Solodokin (Kadima), who warned that those who vote against the bill are immoral people. She also blasted Bet Shemesh mayor Abutbul for being apathetic to holocaust survivors’ rights.  Deputy Finance Minister Yitzchak Cohen (Shas) elaborated the government position against the bill, claiming we don’t have the millions of shekels needed in the budget to pass a bill of this magnitude. The bill was defeated with a vote of 27 for, 39 against.

10 Motions (proposals on the agenda) were discussed. Seven of them went to relevant committees, two were defeated and one wasn’t brought up for a vote.

Activities of the New Israel Fund

MK Smalov-Berkovitz (Kadima) started off the proposal by slamming the NIF as working against the security establishment. She concluded by reciting the mishaberach prayer for solders. MK Miller (Y.B.) was saddened that taxpayers are funding elements that are endangering them. MK Ketzeleh (N.U.) used this motion as an opportunity to express disappointment with MK Eitan Cabel’s words against him the day before where Cabel labeled him an “anti-Zionist”. Ketzeleh went on to quote mission statements off many NGO websites funded by the NIF that were anti Zionistic. He closed by comparing former MK Naomi Chazzan to Goldstone. MK Levin (Likud) said he genuinely believes the left are trying to help, but in reality they are hurting the State of Israel. He blasted MK Zachalka, who interrupted his speech by asking him if he also interrupted the members of the Libyan parliament, then proceeded to suggest Zachalka fly back there and he’d find someone to sell the Arab MK’s house personally. MK Maklev (UTJ) quoted from the Torah that Hashem forgave us for chet haegel but not for chet hameraglim. Following the quotes, Maklev compared the NIF to the meragalim. MK Horovitz (Meretz) called the motion a witch hunt. He was the lone defender of former MK Chazzan.

Minister Erdan (Likud) started by saying the NIF should take some responsibility and stop endangering Israel’s future. Claiming the NIF defends freedom of expression, they should respect the freedom of expression of those who attack the fund at an equal level. Speaker Rivlin opened the motion to further debate after many MKs asked him to do so. MK Chenin (Chadash) asked the government to learn more about the good elements of the NIF. MK Mullah (Kadima) demanded that each of the 700 NGOs also be investigated, and that the government shouldn’t just pick on the NIF. MK Ze’ev (Shas) questioned why there are investigations into charity associations but not political organizations like the NIF? MKs Gilon (Meretz) and Zo-Aretz (Kadima) defended the NIF, while MK Yachomovitz (Labor) exposed that one of the NIF’s NGOs supplies MK Aryeh Eldad info on Knesset committee meetings. MK Orbach (J.H.) closed the debate by saying it is healthy for the left in Israel to be criticized from time to time. The motion of sending the matter to the relevant committee was defeated by a vote of 12 for and 17 against.

Knesset members visiting Libya and Tibi’s forced removal.

MK Bareka (Chadash) started the motion by asking why he is allowed to visit Auschwitz but not Libya? He labeled MK Ben-Ari a Nazi from the Knesset podium for attempting to remove his MK immunity as a result of the trip. MK Zachalka (Balad) called the MKs criticizing him cowards. Deputy Speaker Shama (Likud) informed the MKs they did not help their contingents by visiting Libya and that it is not what they were elected for. MK Matlon (Y.B.) reminded the audience that during the elections his party said the Arabs are not loyal to the State and that this visit proves the point. Matlon warned the Arab MKs they are causing more harm than good for their voters. MK Asana (Ra’am-Ta’al) stressed the Arab MKs are part of the Arab world and should be allowed to visit Arab countries. MK Ze’ev (Shas) said the argument is not why the MKs left, but why they came back. He added that the Knesset should add Libya to the list of enemy states.

MK Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) highlighted the debate. He started by thanking Kadafi for inviting the Arab MKs and proceeded to claim Israel is more isolated than Libya. Tibi followed his remarks by entering an argument with Deputy Speaker Shamah (Likud), which ended when two security guards forcefully took him off the podium. Tibi had requested a final statement after going three times over his time limit. After the forced removal, which made headlines and a funny youtube clip, MK Ariel (N.U.) recited “Baruch sh-patarnu me-onsho shel zeh”. Ariel called for suspending Tibi from his deputy speaker position until the matter is raised in the Knesset ethics committee. MK Orlev (J.H.) went further assuring he would work hard so that the MKs who visited Libya are disqualified from running in the next elections. Minister Erdan (Likud) summarized the debate by saying, “I felt the Libya visit was a satire show. You embarrassed yourselves more than anything else.” The Knesset passed a motion 15 votes for to 4 against for the matter to be discussed further in the Committee of Foreign and Defense Affairs.

The difficult situation of the city of Sderot after the Ministry of Interior cut 40% of its budget

The MK who filed the motion asked when the change had been made from “development” towns to “suburban” towns? MK Levi-Abuksis (Y.B.) blasted the ministry for forgetting the residents of Sderot so quickly. MK Ben-Simon (Labor) was saddened there was more screaming and passion on the NIF and Libya than over Sderot. Former Sderot mayor MK Peretz (Labor) accused the ministry of lowering the budget because there are fewer rockets landing in Sderot these days. MK Cabel (Labor) reinforced Peretz’s words against the government decision. Minister of the Interior Yishai (Shas) laughed it off as a game, claiming when Kadima were in the coalition they voted against giving Sderot more money, and now that they are in the opposition they are suddenly for Sderot residents. The 9 MKs present voted for sending the discussion to the Knesset Interior Committee.

Right’s March in Silwan

MK Zuabi (Balad) charged the motive of the march was to take over east Jerusalem with more Jewish presence. MK Swead (Chadash) remarked that nothing surprises him anymore, then posed the question: “Can Arabs do a protest in Ramot?” Answering his own question: “The police would not allow it to happen. It is a pity they allowed the march in Silwan.” MK Chenin (Chadash) warned that this is a recipe for disaster and demanded the government kick out all the Jews currently living in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood. Minister Aharnovitz (Y.B.) admitted he originally postponed the march for a month, but he wasn’t planning on postponing it forever. The motion was defeated 5 for, 8 against.

Bank of Israel Report

MK Oron (Meretz) warned that Stanley Fisher, Governor of the Bank of Israel, doesn’t agree with the government on everything, and that the matter should be discussed in the finance committee. MKs Peretz (Labor), Cohen (Shas) and Chenin (Chadash) all spoke in favor of the motion. The 11 MKs present voted for the motion and it was sent to committee.

The` Armenian Genocide

MK Oron (Meretz) asked that the State of Israel formally recognize the Armenian genocide. MKs Chanin (Chadash), Cabel (Labor), Wilf (Labor), Horovitz (Meretz) and Orbach (J.H.) all talked in favor of the motion. MK Tebayev (Kadima) informed everyone he was born in the area and therefore should be taken seriously. He said it was a complicated situation that the international historical community has yet to recognize and questioned why Israel should be the first country to do so. MK Eliatov (Y.B.) agreed it was not Israel’s business and we should stay out of this issue. MK Michaeli (Y.B.) echoed that Israel shouldn’t get caught up in a historically complicated issue. Minister Erdan (Likud) defended the government position claiming it was an issue between Turkey and Armenia. He added that the two countries should work the matter out without Israel taking sides. Speaker Rivlin (Likud) slammed the government position and said it was a disgrace that a matter that happened a hundred years ago would not be recognized because of nonsense. 12 voted for the motion, with 8 voting against and 1 who chose to abstain. The motion will be discussed further in the House Committee.

Education in Arab Society

MK Zoabi (Balad) was disappointed by Minister of Education Sa’ar’s (Likud) answer that there were many problems, but they can’t and won’t be solved tomorrow. Sa’ar assured he would work hard on making changes over time. The 8 MKs present voted for sending the motion to the Education Committee

Need to study the appropriate lessons and prepare assessments for Mt. Meron this Lag B’omer

MK Moses (UTJ) labeled last year’s Lag B’omer as a crazy mess. MK Azulai (Shas) called the issue a national interest. Minister of Religious Matters Margi (Shas) expressed this year the government has made changes for improvement, assuring next year will be even better. He thanked the tourist minister for helping him on the matter, citing the budget has grown over the past 8 years from 800,000 to 7 million NIS for Mt. Meron mainly because it is the second most popular site for religious visitors, after the Kotel. Tourist Minister Stas Misznikov (Y.B.) shocked everybody when he said even though he was secular, he was glad to have the privilege to give more money for this issue.

Closing the Old City of Jerusalem to vehicles, including reaching the Western Wall

MK Amsalem (Shas) demanded the government repeal these new laws. Minister Attias (Shas) suggested they discuss the matter in the Interior committee, and the 7 MKs present voted for the motion.

Schedule an Election in Beyarka

MK Amar (Y.B.) demanded Minister Yishai return to the Knesset, because he brought the Village Council from 3 hours away for the important discussion. Yishai refused to come back. Minister Attias (Shas) listened to Amar’s speech and informed Beyarka they will have to wait until the next scheduled election. MK Ben Ari (N.U.) sided with Amar and the 4 MKs present voted for sending it to interior committee for further discussion.

One-Minute Speeches

On the second day back at the Knesset the main topic was the trip taken by six Arab MKs from the three leading Arab parties to Libya. It took over an hour to get past the one-minute-speech segment of the day. Most of the 21 speakers focused on the Kadafi initiative, which caused most of the interruptions and delays.

MK Danny Danon (Likud) started by asking if the Arab MKs were elected to go to Libya? MK Gideon Ezra (Kadima) stated that he doesn’t blame Kadafi for inviting the six Knesset members, but he does blame the six for going. He added that Abu Mazen has a more positive outlook of Israel than the Arab MKs. Amir Peretz (Labor) added that Abu-Mazen’s Channel 2 interview this week illustrates that we do have a partner in peace. MK Miri Regev (Likud) ridiculed the Arab MK’s, saying they were acting like excited little children.  Then she slammed Ezra and Peretz’s comments claiming that Abu-Mazen is not a partner, as he is boycotting all Israeli products in the West Bank. Ketzeleh (National Union) said he was not worried about Kadafi or Israeli Arabs. Stating figures that over the last 62 years the Jewish population grew from 600,000 to 6,000,000. He also expressed that in the future, the religious and the charedim will be the majority of that population. Ben-Ari would later add that Arab MKs always talk about equality of all citizens, and then asked where the equality stands with the Arabs of Libya under Kadafi. Ben-Ari mocked MK Taleb Asana for telling radio commentator Razi Barkai that Kadafi was elected by the people of Libya.

MK Taleb Asana (Ra’am Ta’al) countered that if Israelis are allowed to visit Morocco, Arabs should be able to visit Libya. He claimed that they are not the enemy, and that in fact Israel is its own worst enemy. Speaker Rivlin reminded everyone that Libya is not formally an enemy state, although he himself would be arrested if he set foot there. MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra’am Ta’al) responded to Danon’s claim that he is a non respectable MK by saying that his positions are well known. Tibi assured the audience that he says the same things in Arabic as he says them in Hebrew and that he’d visit any country that invited him. He also admitted that he did not submit a request in writing to the ethics committee to authorize the trip, but that the Libyan foreign minister had dealt with the situation appropriately.

Another big topic was radio personality Gabi Gazit demanding the state stop providing electricity, water and garbage facilities to the charedim all over Israel. MK Orbach (Jewish Home) was outraged that the issue was not exposed on any major news outlet, while MK Moses (UTJ) said he was deeply offended by Gazit’s charge that the charedi MK’s should go back to Brookyln.

Other items discussed were MK Bielsky (Kadima) citing safety concerns on the toll road route 6 which has caused 37 deaths since its inception. MK Chenin (Chadash) asked the government to pay the price and free Gilad Shalit. MK Gilon (Meretz) rallied people to a protest in Haifa’s northern suburbs for Handicap rights. MK Adato (Kadima) suggested that the handing out of Teudat Zehut should be done as an official high school ceremony. MK Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) discussed Israeli arabs being humiliated in Ben-Gurion by racial profiling. Wilf (Labor) read a teacher’s letter to defend herself against many letters she had received against her position on changing laws against students and protecting teachers.  MK Nafa (Balad) and Amar (Yisrael Beytanu) brought up the fact that for the first time druze women are protesting against unemployment and for jobs. MK’s Michaeli and Levi-Abuksis (Both Y.B.) discussed International Health day. Abuksis talked about a new law that would label all medicine bottles, in place of inserted papers. Michaeli spoke against the health ministry policy of discouraging pregnancy of women over 35 years of age. MK Eldad (National Union) exposed a corrupt Tel Aviv high school principal who has a political blog on the school’s website and gives out free parking passes to people willing to join him on Machsom Watch buses. MK Ben-Ari (National Union) gave a dvar torah with the lesson being that Bar Kochva teaches us there are things worth dying for. Speaker Rivlin was upset about being in a difficult position where he had to end the dvar torah short, since it was longer than a minute.

Herzl Day 2: Zionism in the year 2010

Only 13 of the MKs chose to talk about Herzl and define Zionism for today’s age. MK Hutabeli (Likud) quoted Rav Kook’s eulogy of Herzl. MK Miller (Y.B.) talked about his aliya experience and his home in Ariel and attacked the Arab MKs who visited Libya. MKs Ezra and Mullah (Both Kadima) told us that Zionism is not religion or settlements, it is building in the Negev and the Galil. MK Ben-Simon (Labor) posed the question what would Herzl say if he lived today? He then asked, who would he vote for? MK Wilf (Labor) stated that the challenge is to redefine Zionism and warned that we have a lot of work ahead of us.

MK Cabel (Labor) read out the definition of Zionism from various sources. He equated Zionism with love. The MK also declared that settlements are Anti-Zionistic. MK Gilon (Meretz) defined Zionism as morality. He expressed that his parents’ generation are disappointed with Israel today and questioned what we would leave for our children. MK Oron (Meretz) traded insults on the danger of right-wing Zionism and said that he and Meretz are the true Zionists. The 4 National Union MK’s were attacked from Meretz, Labor and Kadima during the entire discussion. MK Ariel (NU) remined the audience that Zionism comes from the word Zion, Jerusalem. Ketzeleh (NU) said he was disappointed by the charedim and reform Jews who rejected Herzl. Ben-Ari (NU) told us that he has always defended Herzl’s honor and that building the third temple is the end game of religious Zionism. Eldad (NU) pondered if the Knesset should discontinue Herzl day next year due to the infighting it caused today.

Mitchell Visit

On the left MK Gilon (Meretz) asked the government to do more for peace. The MK requested that Israel should go straight to the negotiating table for final status agreements. On the right MK Ben-Ari (NU) warned us that Bibi is not two faced, but three faced. He added that Obama wants to throw Bibi off the throne of the premiership. Following these words he accused Bibi of forbidding the traditional flag dancing around the city walls on Jerusalem day due to American pressure.

Minister Michael Eitan (Likud) appeased both MK’s.  He told Meretz that the government wanted to talk, but the Palestinians had preconditions to the negotiations. He agreed with the National Union that the Palestinians are saying nice things in Hebrew while inciting violence in Arabic. Eitan reminded everyone that Olmert had extreme views and the Palestinians said that was not enough. “We have to be realistic, yet careful” he warned. The 5 MKs in the room voted for discussing the matter further in the committee of foreign and defense affairs.

Pending destruction of Klien and Peretz’s homes

The last discussion of the less than 3 and half hour plenary session had three MKs from three different parties demanding that the Givat Hayoel neighborhood in Eli, the home of two fallen IDF senior officers, not be dismantled.

MK Danon (Likud) criticized the Sasson report, which he says was not ordered by any Israeli government, yet Peace Now demands the state follow it to the letter. He claimed that most of Bet Shemesh was built before there was authorization. MK Eldad (NU) wondered why illegal construction is always a Jewish thing but never an Arab thing. MK Orbach (JH) stated that destroying war heroes’ homes is a disgrace.

Minister Eitan (Likud) responded that the government has not yet made a formal decision on the issue. He gave examples of Elazar and Rechalim as settlements which recently had neighborhoods become authorized outposts and said the MK’s shouldn’t worry about Eli. The 5 MK’s present voted for further discussion in the Knesset when the government does make its decision.

Other Notes:

  • MK Adato (Kadima) reported on her week-long delegation to India and Nepal. She reported that the electoral power of 200 million Indian Muslims is great.
  • The Knesset was delayed by 10 minutes due to technical difficulties with the sound equipment.

Monday the Knesset returned to working mode after a long passover recess. The first day’s plenary session was less than three hours, and over two of those hours were spent on the discussion of Kadima’s no confidence vote. Kadima’s weekly attempt to bring down the government failed, this time by the margin of 58 against, 21 for, 4 abstaining and 37 MK’s who just didn’t show up to their first day back at work.

MK Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima) accused the government in his opening speech of lowering Israel to an all-time low internationally, both within Europe and the United States. The former Finance Minister questioned both the morality and necessity to have a bi-annual budget. He also mocked the 1,500 government decision that have all gone nowhere. Bar-On lashed out at Labor for betraying their voters by joining a right-wing government and at Yisrael Betaynu for sitting with the religious parties that cripple secular legislation. Ronnie assured both parties that he is looking forward to the next elections where Kadima will take away their mandates.

The most shocking part of Bar-On’s speech was that he had made inquiries within Jerusalem city hall and the Interior Ministry and found out that construction in East Jerusalem had been frozen. He charged that a corrupt deal was made where Bibi agreed to Obama’s demand on the freeze, however in return would not say so publicly. The Kadima’s MK’s last words were: “Bibi wants to go out in the rain and remain dry”.

Yochanan Pelsner (Kadima) slammed the government with Livni’s favorite argument:  Bibi was not elected by a majority of Israel, nor is the Likud the largest party in Knesset. The MK followed with a rant against the  Labor party which saw Amir Peretz walk out in protest. He later asked them to leave the coalition and join the Kadima led opposition that would immediately bring down the coalition to 61 MKs and eventually bring down the right-wing government all together.

Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Ardan (Likud) countered that he didn’t hear anything new from Bar-On or Kadima. He assured that the Israeli people stand behind the governmental decisions, even if they don’t agree with the methodology. Ardan also reminded Bar-On that both the Likud and Kadima stand for a Palestinian state, and for painful compromises.

Ofir Okunis (Likud) added that the government wants to talk but the Palestinians don’t have any interest. Claiming that the Palestinians want more and that nothing is enough for them. Okunis agreed that this is the worst pressure America has ever put on us, although speaker of the house Reuven Rivlin disagreed. The Likud MK said that there are disagreements with the America, but we will convince them we are right on Jerusalem. He than expressed outrage towards Livni and Kadima, charging that when the Likud was in the opposition they supported the government descions to the rest of the world, even though they disagreed internally. He said that from Kadima they expect the same thing. He closed with a responce to Livni’s political corruption allegation: “We might be Bibiland, but at least we are not Holyland”.

Orbach (Jewish Home) slammed the Arab MK delegation to Libya and cited that as a key reason why the opposition would lose in their attempt to bring down the government once again.

Other quotes from the debate: Ketzeleh (NU):  “Jews – Get married young and have many babies. We will win the demographic game!”. Nisim Ze’ev (Shas): “Kadima forgot to do Biur Chametz this year”. Ben-Simon (Labor): “I never used the term “occupied” land, but I have used the term “controlled” land.”

Herzl Day was celebrated with brief speeches from the Prime-Minister, Opposition Leader and Speaker of the House.

Other Notes:

* The 7th Knesset Secretary is appointed, the first female ever.

* Ceremonial swearing in of new-old Labor MK Rajeb Majadleh in place of Yuli Tamir.

* Chaim Katz reported on the Knesset delegation to Poland for walk of the living.