Archive for May, 2010

Wednesday’s session last about seven and a half hours. The Knesset passed six different bills covering ten amendments in their preliminary readings and defeated MK Solodkin’s (Kadima) Social Housing Bill. The Knesset also approved seven of the nine motions, opting not to vote on one and defeating MK Eldad’s (N.U.) motion on the State Service Commissioner’s term extension. The “Gilad Shalit Law” and the Citizenship Bill became the talk of the day after they were both approved in their preliminary readings, but it seems unlikely that they will be advanced anytime in the near future. For the first time this summer the motions seemed more compelling than the queries, but that might be because few MKs showed up for the ministers who opened and closed the day’s session.

Urgent Queries to Health and Housing Ministers

MK Cohen (Shas) asked how three ambulances could serve the population of over 250,000 people in Haifa. Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) responded that there are 52 ambulances in the Haifa area. MK Ganem (Ra’am-Ta’al) complained that there aren’t enough ambulances in Sachnin. The minister said he would look into the matter. The Knesset took a ten minute recess when the siren sounded for a security drill.

MK Kirschenbaum (Y.B.) asked about the policy of determining who is eligible for government housing. Housing Minister Ariel Atias (Shas) reviewed the levels of eligibility and priority as part of the policy that was in place from 1994 until last week. He went on to defend the new system that favors families with a large number of children by placing them at the top of the list. MKs Tzartur and Asana (Ra’am-Ta’al) complained about a housing crisis in the Israeli Arab community, specifically in Jaffa. The minister said he would not support a public housing plan with affirmative action for Arabs.

The Gilad Shalit Law – Four amendments by four MKs that are being merged into one bill.

1) Incarceration of prisoners is required bill

2) The release of kidnapped prisoners bill

3) Prisons Ordinance Bill: Amendment – Restricting visits to security prisoners

4) Prisons Ordinance Bill: Prevention of visits

These four amendments are being merged because they cover similar issues related to additional restrictions for Hamas prisoners.

MK Danon (Likud) explained that the Red Cross brings families of Hamas terrorists for weekly visits while Shalit is lucky to get a tape out once every six months. He criticized the Red Cross for not demanding rights for Shalit. Danon said the new restrictions would affect Hamas terrorists and would be lifted when Shalit is either freed or given family visits. The Arab MKs heavily heckled the speech. The new law would forbid all family visits to jailed Hamas members.

MK Levin (Likud) expressed his view that the pressure the Hamas families will put on their leadership will increase Shalit’s chance for a swift release.

MK Solodkin (Kadima) said she had proposed a similar amendment in the previous Knesset under Olmert. She expressed pride that for once the government is doing something she can agree with.

MK Eldad (N.U.) talked about terrorists finishing high school or getting a masters degree on our tax-paying shekels. Eldad asked what circumstances have changed since his amendment was rejected six months ago.

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitz (Y.B.) said that the four amendments by the four MKs would be softened in the committees and reminded everyone it was a preliminary reading and the chances of it passing in its first reading are very low.

MK Tzartur said he hoped all security prisoners on both sides would be released.

MK Asana spoke of his visit with the Shalit family and expressed his feeling this amendment would hurt Shalit’s chances of release. He called each one of the 11,000 security prisoners “Gilad Shalits”.

MK Oron (Meretz) said after four years we need to bring Shalit home. He condemned the MKs who want to run the Prisons Authority and expressed his opposition.

MK Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) said Shalit should be released and all the security prisoners should be released. He accused Captain George in the Shabak of sexual abuse of prisoners after their arrest.

The MKs who were criticized during the speeches of the four MKs opposed to the bill were allowed to speak again.

MK Danon defended the law and said it sends a clear message to Hamas.

MK Levin said whoever draws a parallel between a kidnapped solider and murderers have no place in the Knesset and do not deserve Israeli citizenship. He called their words undemocratic. He rejected the idea that terrorists should be rehabilitated at the expense of the tax payers and said he is pleased that his amendment would put an end to these types of privileges.

MK Solodkin said it is unacceptable that Shalit is getting worse treatment than terrorists. She said the Russian community supports her completely.

MK Eldad said all of the MKs are part of a play, and the Homeland Minister is the director. He is allowing the law to be passed in its preliminary reading, but he plans to bury it in the committee. Eldad charged that the Minister has the power to make these changes and the only reason the amendments are in place is because Aharonovitz won’t do what is needed to be done. He reminded everyone that the days keep passing and with each passing day Shalit grows older.

The first amendment was passed in its preliminary reading 52-10-1. The second amendment passed 54-10. The third amendment passed 53-9 and the fourth amendment passed 51-10. A discussion on which committee the bill should be sent to forced Speaker Rivlin to send the bill to the House Committee. There were arguments for sending it to the Justice Committee, the Interior Committee and the Foreign and Defense Committee.

Debit Cards Bill (Amendment – There are details missing in the transaction document)

MK Maklev (U.T.J.) discussed the amendment that would force credit card companies to show the difference between a transaction in person and a transaction over the phone.

Finance Minister Neaman said the government supported the amendment.

The Knesset passed the amendment 36-0 in its preliminary reading and sent it to the Finance Committee.

Municipal taxes ordinance and government taxes bill (two amendments on non-profit cemeteries)

MK Gafni (U.T.J.) denounced the current law that forces families to pay city taxes on cemetery plots.

MK Azulai (Shas) said that very few cities enforce the current law. However, since a few do, we must change the law to excuse people from paying city tax on cemetery plots. He mentioned that this is a bill on which he expects the coalition and the opposition to come together.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) praised the two MKs and expressed the government’s approval of the amendment.

MK Shitrit (Kadima) disapproved that the amendment would exclude cemeteries that are not part of “Chevrat Kadisha” and would therefore exclude secular cemeteries, including all Israeli Arab cemeteries. He went on to criticize Chevrat Kadisha for charging $10,000 for burial of a body from overseas.

MK Gafni defended Chevrat Kadisha and asked what this argument had to with people paying city tax on cemetery plots.

The Knesset voted in favor of the two amendments 56-0-1 and 52-0 in their preliminary readings and the bill was merged into one and sent to the Funds Committee.

Social Housing Bill

MK Solodkin talked about the need for more public housing. She discussed the 150,000 public houses until 1996 and the additional housing built to answer the rising demand until 2003, thanks to the now defunct Yisrael B’Aliyah party. This bill would increase the amount of public housing by 7,000 units each year.

Housing Minister Attias said the bill offered a good idea. He also wanted to set the record straight. He claimed the government had not added one new unit in any public housing project over the last 20 years, until last year. The minister explained that since he restarted the public housing program 200,000 people have asked to be a part of the new project and that he recently changed who gets priority over whom. Attias explained that because this was a bill that would take a slice out of the budget annually the government has to oppose it.

The bill was defeated 15-44.

Citizenship Bill (Amendment – Cancellation of citizenship for an act of terrorism or espionage)

MK Rotem (Y.B.) stated that citizenship also has its obligations; it is not just about privileges. He cited other countries that revoke citizenship from people who commit treason. Rotem explained that citizenship is not holy; it is a piece of paper that gives certain privileges to people who wish to be a part of the country. Terrorists, he said, do not want to be citizens. He also stated that under international law revoking citizenship of individuals is allowed.

Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) expressed his frustration with the current law, which does not allow the Interior Minister to revoke citizenship, instead giving that power only to the Supreme Court. Yishai suggested we adapt the American law that permits the Interior Minister to revoke citizenship of traitors.

MK Horovitz (Meretz) said the lack of a constitution creates many issues. Horovitz said that under this law a serial killer of six would be allowed to retain his citizenship while a person who drives a terrorist would have his revoked. Horovitz said we should be very careful because this is a slippery slope.

The amendment passed 20-10 in its preliminary reading and was transferred to the House Committee, which will decide between sending the bill to the Interior Committee or the Justice Committee.

Consumer Protection Bill (Amendment – telephone hold time limit for human telephone answering)

MK Cabel (Labor) explained the new amendment, which would limit the time on hold to three minutes and would exempt consumers from paying the phone charges during that time.

Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Noked (Labor) explained that under the amendment if a person does not answer within three minutes the costumer would leave a message that would be returned within three hours. She praised the bill for improving service and expressed the government’s approval of the amendment.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 18-0 and was transferred to the Finance Committee.

Copyright Bill (Amendment – Usage of public body’s photographs)

MK Shitrit explained his amendment would allow everyone to use photos taken by a public body, such as an army spokesman, without invoking the penalties of the Copyright Bill. He explained further that every modern country, including America, allows free material. Under the current law no foreign magazine is allowed to use a photograph of any Minister without being subject to a copyright fine. He said it hurts Hasbara efforts and prevents blogs, like this one, from doing the same job Palestinian blogs are allowed to do. He praised Minister Eitan (Likud) for lobbying the bill and receiving government approval.

Minister Begin (Likud) thanked Shitrit for the idea and expressed the government’s desire to see this through in the committee discussions.

MK Baron (Kadima) asked what happens in certain “gray” situations.

Minister Begin said his position is that the Justice Minister will have his say on the matter in the committee and if they can solve the issue without legislation that would be the best answer for everybody.

The amendment was passed in its preliminary reading 21-0 and was transferred to the Science and Technology Committee.

Motion on the housing shortage in Israel

MK Cabel (Labor) bid MK Baron “Shabbat Shalom” as he got up to leave for the day. MK Baron replied: “Only in the Knesset do you say Shabbat Shalom on a Wednesday afternoon”. The MKs present in the room responded with a discussion on the matter for a few minutes, including an argument over who will cook the Chulent.

Cabel then talked about his parliamentary assistant Omar Chabri, who was looking for a new apartment with his wife, and the troubles he faced and how he was left empty handed. He claimed that only in Judea and Samaria are there four-room apartments that are under one million NIS. He lamented over the new rule that requires prospective home-owners to come up with a 40% down payment in order to be eligible for a mortgage.  He asked “how can this be if we just joined the OECD?”

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen said that Housing Minister Attias is about to approve another round of 30,000 apartments. He blamed the 22% rise of housing prices over the last two years for the current situation. Deputy Speaker Miller (Y.B.) criticized Cohen’s response as not an adequate reason for the new 40% rule. Cohen said that young couples will probably be exempt from the new rule.

MK Yoel Chasson (Kadima) said that he also believed that young couples would be exempt from the new rule, and it is Cohen’s job to make sure of this.

The motion passed10-0 and was transferred to the Funds Committee.

Motion on the Acre air pollution as a result of a fire in the steel mill

MK Magadla (Labor) praised the Environment Minister for touring the area and assuring the people affected that everything would be okay.

MK Swed (Chadash) suggested moving some of the factories between Haifa and Acre so that the air pollution does not become a long term issue.

MK Walhaba (Kadima) asked the minister to conduct routine checks in the factories to make sure they are up to the standards as set by law in order to prevent such fires from occurring in the future.

MK Gafni explained that there are many houses near the factories and there should be drills on how to deal with tougher situations should they occur.

MK Orbach (J.H.) asked that something be done to lower pollution in the area and that we should increase awareness of the issue with the industrial community.

Environmental Minister Erdan (Likud) praised the 5 MKs on their motion. He expressed frustration on the pollution and said he wants to increase regulation in industry and raise awareness of the issue on a national level. He criticized the fact there are 300 traffic inspectors for parking meters and only 50 inspectors for environmental issues.

MK Chanin (Chadash) asked the minister to check what happens in these factories in the event of a major earthquake or some other national disaster.

MK Cabel said that the Knesset respects Erdan and wishes him well.

The motion passed 10-0 and was sent to the Interior and Environment Committee.

Motion on the construction of the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem

MK Magada (Labor) expressed his opposition to the museum and went home.

MK Agbaria (Labor) questioned how one could build a museum of tolerance on top of a Muslim cemetery? He also asked how moving graves in Ashkelon creates a national controversy, but when it comes to Arab graves it doesn’t matter. He asked the Chareidi MKs to assist him in fighting this issue.

MK Ganem (Ra’am-Ta’al) slammed the court ruling that allowed the graves to be uprooted. He also questioned the need for another museum in Jerusalem.

Minister Begin explained this was a decision made ten years ago and the government must support the court’s ruling on the issue even if personal opinions might differ. He also criticized the newspapers that spread lies on the story. He agreed to allow further public debate on the subject.

The motion passed 9-0 and was sent to the Interior and Environment Committee.

Motion on preventing the entry of Professor Noam Chomsky PA

MK Shai (Kadima) explained that Chomsky is an investigative expert who is anti-war and an anti-Israel Jew. Dana Kaldaron, the clerk on site, decided on her own that he would not be allowed in, telling him “you are not liked in Israel”. Chomsky gave the talk he was supposed to give via conference call in Amman, Jordan. Every international outlet condemned us, and as a result we shot ourselves in the foot.

MK Bensimon said he was not angered by Israel’s handling of the Chomsky issue, but saddened. He asked what harm an 81-year-old man can possible do.

MK Zachalka questioned why Chomsky was denied entry this time, when every other time he was allowed to enter. He supported Chomsky’s speech from Jordan, where he charged the United States of enabling Israel’s murder of 1,400 Gazans during the 2008 war.

MK Tibi asked why Israel would deny a Jew entry to the West Bank? He also criticized Arutz Sheva for misquoting him and giving the impression that he knows where Shalit is being held captive.

MK Ketzeleh asked why Israel would allow Chomsky into the country when he is buddies with Nasralla. He suggested the next time Chomsky visits Lebanon he stay there and convert to Islam. He praised the government’s decision to not allow Chomsky‘s entry.

Minister Begin said he was saddened by MK Bensimon, who would defend an anti-semite over his own country. He equated Chomsky with the academic intellectuals that caused the anti-semitism which brought the Holocaust. He read out the Interior Minister’s response, which explained that, unlike with previous visits, Chomsky did not make the proper arrangements before his visit and expected he could just get in last minute through the Allenby Bridge Crossing. The minister explained that everyone west of the Jordan River are Palestinians under the British mandate rules, a majority of which are Jewish-Palestinian. He slammed Tibi for saying that all previous peace initiatives including Barak and Olmert’s did not meet the minimum standards of preconditions to a talk. Begin asked how 100% of Gaza and 97% of the West Bank, along with a land swap, is not enough for the preconditions of a peace initiative.

MK Chanin (Chadash) asked why a professor needed to coordinate his visit with the Interior Ministry. He demanded a formal apology to Chomsky and the citizens. He also suggested the MKs read his insightful papers on Israel.

MK Agbaria started talking in Arabic and Ketzeleh demanded he speak in Hebrew. Agbaria spoke against the policy Israel has recently started of not allowing people who disagree with them into the country, like a Spanish diplomat.

MK Magadla asked Begin to compromise and to pursue peace.

MK Shitrit said this incident only strengthened Chomsky and the haters of Israel.

The motion passed 10-0 and was sent to the Interior and Environment Committee.

Motion on the release of Hamas leader Muhammad Abu Tir

MK Avraham-Balila (Kadima) stated that in June 2006, then-Interior Minister Baron revoked the citizenship of four eastern Jerusalem Arabs who were Hamas members, including Abu Tir. He was later arrested as a bargaining chip for Gilad Shalit. For some reason, in September Bibi opted to release 9 high level Hamas members, and now on Thursday Abu Tir was released too. Of course Shalit is still in captivity and Abu Tir is back in Jerusalem. She charged that out of the 60 bargaining chips we had a year and a half ago, only twelve remain.

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitz explained that Abu Tir, like others, had their terms expire and that is why they were released. It is not the government’s official position to discuss the Shalit situation. Abu Tir was given 30 days to leave Jerusalem and if he doesn’t, he will return to jail.

Balila agreed to not bring the motion for a vote.

Motion to help Arab teachers from the north and center teach in the Negev

MK Tzartur asked to give financial incentives for the transportation costs of pioneer Arab teachers who travel to the Negev, as well as lowering the city taxes for those who choose to move and make the Negev their home. He complained their average wage of 6,000 NIS per month should be raised as well.

Minister Begin expressed his pride in the 1,400 teachers who travel from the north to the Negev every day. He expressed concerns over the Education ministry finding ways to budget MK Tzartur’s ideas, but said he would bring them up in conversation with Education Minister Sa’ar.

MK Bielski (Kadima) backed MK Tzartur’s motion.

The motion passed 5-0 and was sent to the Education, Culture and Sport Committee.

Motion on the cancelation of the road safety studies program

MK Bielski mentioned the statistic that more Israelis have died on the roads than in all of Israel’s wars. He also cited statistics that most of the accidents are caused by younger drivers. So far this year there has been a twenty percent rise in car accident deaths. Bielski said he understands the budget concerns, but we shouldn’t be cutting spending where we are saving lives.

Minister Begin said in the name of the Education Minister that the issue might get funding in a different ministry that has room to take on this important issue. He also expressed that no matter what we do as a government we cannot bring the mortality rate to zero. Begin also blamed the Government Regulation Committee of Road Safety for not sending the relevant funds as they had promised. Somehow he felt the program would be saved and there was no reason to worry.

The motion passed 4-0 and was sent to the Education, Culture and Sport Committee.

Motion on the danger of closing the dental school in Tel-Aviv

MK Shitrit spoke about what would happen to the 40 second-year students who would be left in a difficult situation because the school only enrolled twelve students this year and just six for next year. Shitrit asked for a government bailout. He warned if we don’t bail them out, they will leave Israel.

Minister Begin gave background information on the school’s history and the countless bailout plans it has received. He agreed to allow a committee to decide what to do this time.

MK Eldad (N.U.) felt that the Science Committee would be a good choice.

MK Michaeli (Shas) suggested the Education Committee.

The motion passed 7-0 and was sent to the House Committee in order to determine in which committee the matter will be discussed.

Motion on the extension of the term of office of the State Service Commissioner

MK Eldad questioned why the term of a person with that much power should be extended, especially when it has never been done before. Eldad named the respected people who are in key positions throughout the spectrum of the three branches of government. Eldad warned that this extension of four months is only the first extension. Eldad accused most public jobs of being political appointments and said the reason we failed in Lebanon was because we were busy promoting the wrong people who were related to other Generals.

Minister Neaman praised the three MKs who stayed for the important motion. He suggested Eldad should look at the light, not just the dark. Neaman said he agrees on term limits but he is in the minority. The minister said the government opposes the motion.

The motion to discuss this matter further was defeated 1-3.

Queries to the Deputy Health Minister and Minister of Welfare and Social Services

Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) answered MK Eldad’s query on why the Psychological Council has not met recently by stating they recently changed chairmen and are currently on recess but will be back shortly to choose a new body. Seven other queries were sent to the protocol because their MKs were not present.

Minister of Welfare and Social Services Herzog (Labor) answered MK Michaeli (Shas) on the query of his office’s support of outside bodies and associations. He discussed the 400 associations his ministry supports and what guidelines each association must follow in order to qualify, as well as the exceptions. He said all this information is available on the ministry’s website. MK Michaeli said he supported the Minister’s work with all the associations and hoped the budget will be raised for such projects.

Minister Herzog answered MK Ze’ev’s (Shas) query on the failure of detecting minors in danger of drugs. He said 151,000 children were discovered in 56 different cities that are part of the program, although we believe the number of children affected is probably closer to 330,000. He said he is working on locating those children and having them join the program. He expressed hope that newfound cooperation with the Education ministry will bear some fruit. Nine other queries were sent to the protocol because their MKs were not present.

Tuesday saw the opposition’s filibuster fail followed by one minute speeches that mostly discussed the Eliantz French school system. Netanyahu was forced to sit through the MKs’ speeches and gave one of his own. Following the drama the Knesset discussed a motion on the connection between cell phones and cancer.

Filibuster of the Deficit Reduction Bill

18 MKs combined forces for a 12-hour filibuster, with representation from all six opposition parties: Kadima (Shitrit, Shai, Zoaretz, Pelsner, Mula and Yoel Hasson), National Union (Ketzeleh, Ariel, Eldad and Ben-Ari), Chadash (Barakeh, Swead, Chanin and Agbaraia), Meretz (Oron and Gilon), Ra’am-Ta’al (Tibi) and Balad (Zachalka). MK Ben-Ari’s hour and a half speech was by far the longest. Ministers Eitan (Likud), Steinetz (Likud), Landau (Y.B.) and MK Gafni took turns criticizing the tactic.

Here are a few summaries so you can get a feeling of what went on.

MK Gafni explained that the bill would put a new spending limit on the budget. The bill proposes an annual growth rate of taxes to a little over 2% overall, a rise from the current 1.7%. Gafni explained it was needed for Israel to pay its loans and get out of its deficit.

MK Baron (Kadima) warned this would endanger the Knesset’s authority and make the opposition less relevant. He went as far as saying this could cause financial collapse.

MK Oron said that this bill would hurt the economy for years to come.

MK Barkeh charged the ones who would pay the extra 0.3-0.4% would be the poor. He said his party would vote against the capitalistic bill that helps the rich.

The opposition made a decision after 5 AM to end the filibuster and vote based on the number of coalition vs. opposition MKs in the room.

The bill narrowly passed in its second reading thanks to Netanyahu who had been hiding in his office and came in to vote for the bill. The third reading was a roll call, which gave the coalition MKs time to come into the room.  The bill passed in its third reading 51-31.

One Minute Speeches

After a recess of over eight hours 22 MKs chose to give one minute speeches.

Nine of the 22 MKs chose to discuss the Eliantz schools. MK Bensimon (Labor), MK Ben-Ari (N.U.), MK Avraham-Balila (Kadima), MK Tirosh (Kadima), MK Ketzeleh (N.U.), MK Bielski (Kadima), MK Zoaretz (Kadima), MK Ze’ev (Shas) and MK Levi-Abukasis (Y.B.) all talked about the Eliantz French school program that was being honored and recalled their own personal experiences with the school.  Many MKs gave lengthy portions of their speech in French.

MK Levin (Likud) asked the government to work against the Supreme Court order opening up the 443 highway to Palestinian traffic, while MK Magadla (Labor) and MK Zachalka (Balad) talked in favor of the 443 Supreme Court decision.

MK Wilf (Labor) and MK Ganem (Ra’am-Ta’al) discussed the decline of the Israeli education system. MK Gilon (Meretz) spoke in sign language in honor of Hearing Disability Day. MK Adato (Kadima) demanded the Health Ministry add the 65 Million NIS that the Supreme Court ordered be set aside for pharmaceuticals. MK Eldad (N.U.) criticized the building freeze in the settlements and Jerusalem. MK Amar (Y.B.) talked about the many deaths in traffic accidents this month. MK Shai (Kadima) stated that 50% of Israelis do not have gas masks. MK Pelsner (Kadima) discussed issues he has with the bi-annual budget. MK Shama (Likud) criticized the government’s decision to raise the minimum required down payment on mortgages to 40%.

Motion on “the government represents the interests of coalition members rather than serve the interests of state residents”.

MK Boim (Kadima) accused Netanyahu of being a failure in every aspect of government and as a liar regarding every campaign promise he made.

MK Pelsner (Kadima) talked about leadership. He talked of Ben-Gurion, Begin and Sharon. He accused Netanyahu of not being a true leader and of giving in to the Chareidim.

MK Okunis (Likud) accused Tzipi Livni of giving in to commentator Yair Lapid’s criticism of Kadima and attacking the Chareidim every chance she had. Okunis reminded the Knesset the amount of money Kadima gave the chareidim in 2006.

MK Rotem (Y.B.) said that the 74 MKs in the coalition represent the majority of the Israeli people and there is nothing Kadima can say about that. He suggested Kadima learn from their mistakes and support the Israeli government just as the opposition supported Kadima during the Second Lebanese war in 2006 and the Gaza war in 2009. Rotem warned of the dangers Israel would face if they are not united.

MK Vaknin (Shas) blasted Kadima for blaming all of Israel’s problems on the Chareidim. He reminded Kadima that they gave him more money than Likud.

MK Moses (U.T.J.) blasted Kadima for being an anti-Chareidi party. He then criticized the new government law in which a person must pay a 40% down payment in order to get a mortgage.

MK Ganem (Ra’am-Ta’al) slammed the new law that takes away certain privileges from Hamas prisoners until Shalit is released.

MK Ben-Ari (N.U.) talked about how Jerusalem Day turned from a national holiday to a national religious one.

MK Swed (Hadash) slammed Netanyahu’s capitalistic economy and called for a communist government that would be for all citizens, not just Jews.

MK Horovitz (Meretz) praised J-Street and asked Netanyahu to take a hint from them and listen to President Obama.

MK Orbach (U.T.J.) asked Netanyahu to do more for the education of Arabs in eastern Jerusalem.

MK Zachalka (Balad) wondered what Netanyahu’s end game was for the peace process.

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) took out fake paper money with Bibi’s face on it and started to throw it on the floor from the Knesset podium. Other Kadima MKs also held up the fake money from their seats. Speaker Rivlin threw Hasson out of the room and forbid him from entering for Netanyahu’s speech.

Coalition Chairman MK Elkin (Likud) disclosed that the Chareidim begged him for half of what Kadima gave them in the previous government. Elkin said that Netanyahu said no, so Kadima should look at themselves in the mirror.

Discussion with Prime-Minister by power of 40 MKs’ Signatures

Netanyahu: We should stand united in the challenges Israel faces from the outside, whether it be the peace process with the Arabs or America.

Livni: The problems Israel faces are from the inside, not the outside. She charged Netanyahu of bribing his coalition partners in order to create a corrupt government that gives money to Chareidim and other interest groups. Livni stated that the only reason everyone is in the coalition is because they think that Netanyahu is lying to everyone else and they are the only ones who know the truth.

The Knesset accepted Netanyahu’s words by a 41-26 vote.

Motion on the connection between cell phones and cancer

MK Cohen (Shas) suggested Israel create a non-political study on the matter.

MK Amar (Y.B.) talked about two studies, one that said it is dangerous to live next to antennae and a second that said it was safer.

MK Maklev (U.T.J.) criticized Israelis who buy multiple cell phones and said because of the frequency of usage, we don’t need a study, we’ll know the results soon enough.

MK Shama (Likud) urged that the fact that our children are using cell phones should make us deal with the situation sooner, rather than later.

Communications Minister Kachalon (Likud) agreed with these four MKs on the urgency of the issue. The minister said he believed that more antennae would cause less radiation because the travel of the radio waves would be shorter. He agreed that a study should be performed to get to the bottom of the situation. Kachalon said he feels that there is no connection between cell phones and cancer.

MK Magadla (Labor) suggested the matter be brought to a committee.

The Knesset voted 7-0 and the motion was transferred to the Interior Committee.

Monday’s session went all night thanks to an opposition filibuster, but I’ll get into that with my next post. The two highlights of the day were MK Nisim Ze’ev’s U.N. “hasbara” and MK Bensimon’s allegations connecting assassinated Minister Ze’evi to assassinated former Prime Minister Rabin. On Monday the Knesset defeated two no confidence motions and passed three bills, two of them in their third readings. The two new laws extend the life of the army radio station for another year and enhance bank security for transactions involving large amounts of money.

Israel’s hasbara problem is well known, both internally and externally. Netanyahu went as far as creating a new ministry and appointing a close aide, Yuli Edelstein as the first Minister of Information and Diaspora, dealing with that exact purpose. It is unusual that a coalition MK would bring up such a sensitive issue during a no confidence vote, but that independence is something MK Nisim Ze’ev from Shas routinely demonstrates. Ze’ev was shocked when he learned that a United Nations high level official of twenty years had never heard of Israel’s biblical claim to Judea and Samaria. Elsa Stamatopoulou from Greece is Chief Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in the Division of Social Policy and Development as part of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs centered in the United Nations Headquarters. In a three page letter to Stamatopolou MK Ze’ev set the record straight including the usage of quotes from Israel’s bill of independence and other U.N. sources.  Apparently, the only message that Israeli hasbara members overseas bring up in the U.N. is to do strictly with security and not our biblical claim to the land, and this hurts us in many U.N. committees. I’d like to ask my loyal readers their opinion on this subject.

MK Bensimon was a respected journalist before he joined the Knesset as a member of Labor. It is going to be very difficult for people to respect him now after his speech during the no confidence vote, accusing assassinated Tourism Minister Ra’achavam Ze’evi of indirectly causing the assassination of Rabin. To give you some background, Rabin formed a minority government in 1992 with 58 seats between three parties (Labor, Meretz and Shas). The only way the government survived was through support from Arab opposition members. Ze’evi questioned the legality of a government that was not supported by a coalition of 61 MKs. MK Bensimon’s accusation today was that Ze’evi’s words influenced Yigal Shamir, who assassinated Rabin. This was the first accusation of this magnitude directed at Ze’evi and honestly seems like quite a stretch, directed to a former Minister and General who was also assassinated for his political beliefs.

No Confidence Motions

1) Kadima’s No Confidence Motion on the subject “the government’s intention to create an army learning center city in the Negev without giving priority to southern contractors and discriminating against prioritizing Israeli products without insisting on a worthy compensation package to the southern contractors and Israeli industry, in which preferring non-Israeli contractors and products, without giving proper compensation.”

MK Yisrael Chason (Kadima) complained that the government doesn’t do anything for the Galil. He also criticized the government for rushing the project in the Negev, saying they will do a good job in ten years instead of an excellent job in twenty years.

Minister Peled (Likud) was surprised that Chason talked about the Galil. Peled talked about how he helped the former SLA (Southern Lebanese Army), which Israel absorbed in 2000. Peled said the government has helped the Negev and the Galil plenty. The minister defended the new army city and the goal to complete the work as soon as possible. He expressed that in the long run it will help the Negev and questioned why Kadima would want to delay the project for ten years.

2) Joint No Confidence by Balad, Ra’am-Ta’al and Chadash on the subject “erosion of democracy in the shadow of an anti-democratic right-wing government”.

MK Agbaria (Chadash) criticized the election advertisements last year as racist against Arabs. He condemned the Israeli public for electing the right-wing parties. Agbaria questioned what the difference was between those parties and European anti-Jew parties? He also criticized the attempt to revoke the immunity of the Arab MKs who visited Libya and the destruction of Arab homes. Agbaria slammed the discrimination against all minorities including Ethiopians and Chareidim. He blasted all the Zionistic parties and praised his party’s platform of communism.

Minister Yishai (Shas) said he supported demolishing all illegal homes, not just Arab ones. He suggested Arabs try to legalize their homes as soon as possible. The minister said there was no country in the world that allowed minorities to legalize their illegal homes. He said we are forgiving, but we must keep the law.

Party Discussion and Vote

MK Mula (Kadima) blasted the fact that none of the 39 Ministers or Deputy Ministers were in the room. Speaker Rivlin allowed Mula to speak freely for the few minutes until a minister entered the room. Mula asked how the government could say that the army city is in the best interest of the Negev’s residents if they are going to hire Thai workers.

MK Rotem (Y.B.) slammed MK Agbaria for not staying to hear his response. He said that Agbaria was the one who was undemocratic. He asked what MK Agbaria considers racist about Yisrael Beitaynu’s proposal that citizens take an oath to the state they live in. Rotem explained that most of the Israeli Arabs are loyal to the State and criticized the Arab MKs of representing the Palestians instead of the Israeli Arabs who elected them. He said that every loyal Israeli Arab is a welcome citizen. Rotem concluded that Agbaria should be ashamed of calling Israel racist and undemocratic because there is no Arab country that would allow him to deliver such a speech against their government.

MK Ze’ev (Shas) condemned MK Zuabi (Balad) for traveling to be a part of the “Gaza Supply Ship” scandal. He asked MK Agbaria how he can preach democracy when he visits the undemocratic Kadafi in Libya. Ze’ev said we have a problem with our “hasbara”, citing issues within the U.N. where long term officials have no idea Judea and Samaria are a part of our biblical heritage. Below is a link to the letter,  just copy and paste in a new window to view.

MK Ganem (Ra’am-Ta’al) said democracy is when a citizen is allowed to criticize his country without threat of having his citizenship revoked.

MK Ketzeleh (N.U.) suggested Israelis support the products that are being boycotted by the Palestinians and Israeli Arab communities, and blasted Netanyahu for not doing anything on the subject. He also criticized the government for not acting to stop the infiltrators from Sudan. Ketzeleh said that Eilat’s mayor cried to him that his city is no longer a Jewish city; it’s now a Muslim one. He warned that Tel Aviv will soon share Eilat’s fate.

MK Barakeh (Chadash) criticized the arrest of two political leaders of the Israeli Arab public on the count of treason. He called for the end of the “occupation”.

MK Oron (Meretz) slammed the attempt to revoke the immunity of the six Arab MKs who visited Libya. He likened the current issues with the Arab MKs to a time when he didn’t agree with one word of former MK Tzvi Hendel, but he never tried to have Hendel’s immunity revoked.

MK Orbach (U.T.J.) agreed with MK Oron that there was no reason to revoke the MKs immunity, but he criticized everyone who denied Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish country, calling them traitors.

MK Bensimon (Labor) accused former Minister Ra’achavam Ze’evi of killing former Prime Minister Rabin by questioning the legitimacy of Rabin’s government, which had fewer than 61 MKs but survived due to Arab MKs who supported the government from the opposition. He criticized MK Orbach for calling the Arab MKs traitors, and Orbach started defending himself. Deputy Speaker Vaknin (Shas) tried to restore order.

MK Zachalka (Balad) condemned the attempt to revoke Arab MKs immunity, calling it undemocratic.

MK Maklev (U.T.J.) criticized the discrimination against Chareidi society by the government offices and police.

MK Elkin (Likud) spoke in place of MK Tzipi Hotovely, who came late. Elkin argued if former MK Kahanah can be considered a traitor and have his immunity revoked, so can Israeli Arab MKs.

Kadima’s No Confidence motion was defeated 32-52 and the Arab MK motion was defeated 28-55.

Gali Tzahal Bill: Radio broadcasts of the Israel Defense Forces – Amendment.

MK Okinus (Likud) suggested extending the radio station Gali Tzahal for another year. He expressed hope that it will be extended again in the future.

The vote passed 54-2-1 in its second reading and 43-2 in its third reading.

Securities Bill Amendment

MK Gafni (U.T.J.) explained the bill would enhance bank security for large sums of money.

The bill passed 45-0-1 in its second reading and 44-0-1 in its third.

Israel‘s Heritage Authority Bill

Culture Minister Livnat (Likud) explained the need to keep Jewish heritages such as Ladino and Yiddish as part of our country. The bill would create a museum and authority to govern it.

MK Mula was angered that the Ethiopian heritage is included in the bill instead of standing on its own.

MK Ze’ev said Jewish heritage is about Torah, not about a museum or a Mordechai Vananu or an Anat Kam.

MK Yoel Chason (Kadima) said that spending money on heritage museums is wrong, but he is willing to discuss the matter in the committee.

MK Shitrit (Kadima) asked how Livnat would pick which heritages would be in the museum and which would be left out.

MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) charged that Livnat stole his bill.

MK Itzick (Kadima) congratulated Livnat’s bill.

MK Walhebe (Kadima) said that the Druze heritage bill fell because of money.

The Knesset voted in favor 35-0 in its first reading and was sent to the House committee.

Just like that after only ten working days, a third of the summer session is in the books. A great deal of this session has been spent like today with no confidence votes on the government, all of which failed. There have been a few bills and many motions, most of which didn’t make headlines, and today was no different. Because of Shavuot, the entire week was squeezed into today’s almost five hour session.  After the two no confidence votes, two bills passed, one in its third reading, followed by three motions, one of which was defeated.

Motion of no confidence on behalf of Kadima: “The Israeli government is creating a policy of discrimination by the Ministry of Construction and Housing to favor one sector over another in the building program for young couples and is perpetuating this discrimination, which undermines social gaps in Israeli society, causing it to collapse.”

The motion was delayed almost 10 minutes due to the fact that the minister who was supposed to answer didn’t show up.

MK Meir Shitrit (Kadima), former Construction and Housing Minister in the beginning of Olmert’s term, talked about the difficulty of secular young couples who are looking for apartments, claiming the current minister is focusing only on charedi young couples. He cited Bet Shemesh as an example, where land that had been previously approved for the secular public was recently transferred to the charedim. Shitrit suggested couples who went to the army should be given preference over charedi couples who do not contribute to the State. He also criticized the tax breaks given to Americans who don’t live in Israel and own real estate in Jerusalem, calling them “empty neighborhoods”, “ghost towns” and “evil landlords”.

Construction and Housing Minister Attias (Shas) reported that the housing shortage in Israel has been an issue for over a decade. The solution is to construct more housing. The minister defended the Bet Shemesh affair, claiming everything was done legally and suggesting the policy of separate housing for secular Israelis and charedim continue. Attias claimed mayors don’t agree to construct small apartments in their city because they fear they will attract poor people. He also said there was no way to control which apartments would be for rent and which would later be sold. The minister backed his recent law, which banned setting a minimum amount of money a landlord needs to take from a tenant. Attias explained that the building freeze beyond the ’67 borders have crippled the ability for his ministry to create enough housing to meet Israel’s current needs. He said that if the freeze is lifted, there will be more building, and the prices of both houses for sale and apartments for rent will go down. On the public housing issue, Attias stood by his position on the favoritism towards families who have more kids over families who are childless. The minister also criticized environmental groups who have caused the decade-long housing shortage.

Motion of no confidence on behalf of the Meretz faction, Ra’am-Ta’al, Chadash and Balad on “the exposed serious findings in the state comptroller’s report”

MK Gilon (Meretz) charged that there are “two Israels”, a rich Israel and a poor Israel. He slammed the current government for killing the middle class, and the previous government for the Holyland affair, citing his belief that there has not been a real government in Israel since Peres was Prime Minister in 1996. He expressed his hatred for Kadima, Likud and Ehud Barak, who play musical chairs and do not solve anything.

Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) spoke in praise of the state comptroller, whom he said was among the most effective in Israel’s history. Erdan listed the changes the government has made as requested in the report and questioned the relevance of most of Gilon’s talk.

Discussion on the motions by a party representative

MK Tevyev (Kadima) accused Attias of only looking out for the charedi public. He asked the coalition partners who agree with him not to fear the charedim and to condemn Attias.

MK Michaeli (Y.B.) cited Israel’s entry into the OECD as a reason not to have a no confidence vote this week. She expressed disappointment that the opposition feels the need to waste everyone’s time each week on a vote they know is lost.

MK Amsalem (Shas) blasted the secular leaders for constantly attacking the charedi community and suggested they learn some derech eretz on Shavuot.

Deputy Minister Parush (U.T.J.) attacked Netanyahu for the grave transfer in Ashkelon, claiming this will give Europeans the legitimacy they need to uproot Jewish graves there. He informed the government that the five U.T.J. MKs will walk out of the room when the vote begins and not participate.

MK Ganem (Ra’am-Ta’al) congratulated Israel for joining the OECD despite the financial gap between Jews and Arabs. He said he was impressed that the government with no head had so many ears; the problem he said was that the ears were not listening.

MK Agabreih (Chadash) said he enjoyed Ganem’s sarcasm and spoke a little Arabic to Deputy Speaker Walhaba, to the frustration of the other MKs present. He slammed the Knesset for not hiring Arab workers and spoke about Arabs unjustly not receiving welfare.

MK Horrovitz (Meretz) talked about megilat rut, which is read on Shavuot. He said he was saddened the religious Jews no longer care for the “gerim”, as they once did for Rut, the Moabite. Horrovitz attacked Israel for not allowing left wing extremist Noam Chomsky to enter the Palestinian Authority or Israel and charged there was no freedom of expression anymore.

MK Eldad (N.U.) discussed the many findings by the state comptroller on Agriculture Minister Simchon (Labor). Eldad warned that Simchon should not be allowed to direct the Keren Kaymet L’Yisrael (K.K.L./J.U.F.), stating Simchon might be the most corrupt politician in Knesset today.

MK Orbach (J.H.) informed MK Ganem that because he was an Israeli citizen, the OECD is his accomplishment too. He asked Ganem when his friends in Arab countries will admit Israel into the Middle East club. Orbach criticized Professor Chomsky and supported the government’s decision to keep the “hater of Israel” outside its borders.

MK Zachalka (Balad) called Chomsky one of the greatest minds of his generation and one of the most brilliant Jews of all time. He also condemned the police who arrested Balad activists for being traitors.

Labor was the only party who chose not to send an MK to speak on the motion.

MK Levin (Likud) chose to talk about national sports. He also criticized the opposition for the no confidence motions. Levin pointed out that Israel’s economy is standing strong, despite the failure of many European and other western countries. Levin charged that Kadima is the reason there is a housing shortage because they didn’t build enough during their administration.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) summarized the discussion as anti-charedi and full of opposition lies.

The Knesset defeated the first no confidence vote 24-44-1, with 51 MKs not present. The second no confidence motion was defeated 24-45.

Vote on amendment to Annual Leave Bill

MK Chaim Katz (Likud) explained that the amendment will allow workers to choose national holidays as vacation days (for example, Jerusalem Day or Druze holidays) instead of religious holidays (Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, etc). MK Walhaba (Kadima) was thankful to Katz who helped him with the law.

The bill was approved in its second reading 56-0 with 1 abstaining. The bill was passed in its third reading 57-0.

Vote on Income Tax Ordinance – Proposed amendment on a special assessment period

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen explained that the bill would allow companies to choose a different deadline month other than January for annual reports, which would ease the workload in both the income tax office and the accounting firms.

MK Oron (Meretz) chose to use his time to attack Israel for not allowing Chomsky into Israel. Oron also accused Netanyahu of being so powerful that he could take credit for the fall of the Euro and the rise of the U.S. Dollar.

MK Ben-Ari (N.U.) said he was worried about the growing numbers of extreme Muslim fundamentalists in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, a group that Noam Chomsky has been supporting. Ben-Ari praised Israel for not allowing those who identify with the enemy entry into the country.

MK Shitrit expressed his worry that this amendment will be used in other ministries and that it will create more red tape.

MK Ze’ev (Shas) talked about the pleas he received from Eilat’s mayor to resolve the increase of Sudan refugees who have changed the city into a Muslim city.

The Knesset voted 30-0 and the bill passed in its first reading and was sent to the funds committee.

Motion on Russia’s policy on Hamas and the signing of a Russia-Syria arms deal

MK Eldad expressed his frustration with Russia, where Jews have been killed in every generation. He was not surprised with Russia’s current foreign policy that supports Muslim terrorists over Israel.

MK Mula (Kadima) asked what Liberman, the Russian, is doing to improve our relations with Russia.

MK Elkin (Likud), himself born in Russia, questioned what Liberman’s insight is on the current crises with Russia. He gave his own ideas on what Russia might be thinking internally but raised no possible solutions.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon (Y.B.) criticized Mula and Kadima for not fostering better relations with Russia when Israel was in a better position. However, he said the motion was not necessary because the media is blowing things out of proportion.

MK Agabria countered Eldad’s comments by saying Russia voted for Israel’s founding in 1947, and therefore he should be less harsh.

MK Ganem said we shouldn’t care what Russia does with Syria and should focus on Israel.

MK Ze’ev said he was more worried about Syria than Russia. Russia might have sold arms to Syria, but the concern is why they need weapons.

The motion was passed 8-3 and sent to the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Motion on “Ministers’ statements on political matters”

MK Cable (Labor) asked in the name of Ehud Barak that all ministers who are trying to derail the peace process keep their thoughts to themselves.

MK Ganem described the government as Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, where one part might be good, but the other is evil.

MK Oron (Meretz) said he doesn’t know what Israel’s position is anymore. Is it the policy of Netanyahu? Or Liberman? Or Barak? Or is it the policy of Boogie or Begin?

Minister Erdan said he didn’t know who to believe when it came to the charges on the peace talks. Perhaps the left, who says Netanyahu doesn’t mean what he says, or the right, who believes Netanyahu is going to do what he says. Erdan said that freedom of expression is not just for citizens; it is for MKs and ministers too, including Ehud Barak.

MK Agabria said he will take Benny Begin’s recent remarks as the official position of the Israeli government, and therefore suggested the Palestinians end the talks.

The motion was defeated 4-8.

Motion on “the plague of road accidents on the roads of the country

MK Swed (Chadash) talked about the recent bus-truck accident that left five dead, as well as the statistics that show a rise in road accident deaths.

MK Orlev (J.H.) suggested we end the apathy and do more to prevent road accidents.

MK Ben-Ari echoed Orlev’s words and told a story of pointless death. Ben-Ari went as far as calling cars “weapons”. He suggested we educate Israelis how to use their most dangerous weapon, their car.

MK Amar (Y.B.) talked about the 13 deaths last week on the roads, and proposed having the mayors of nearby cities take responsibility for the roads around their cities. Amar asked how a man can get a license without the requirement of driving at night or in the rain.

MK Magadla (Labor) supported the minister, who has been very pro-Arab in regards to the transportation needs of his community. He complained that every day he is disappointed by the culture of drivers in Israel. Magadla noted that over 150 people have died in traffic accidents so far this year, a rise of over 9% from last year. The MK explained that the statistic was not complete because it didn’t include Palestinian deaths.

MK Ze’ev blamed the bus-truck accident on Egged. Despite the fact that the company knew he was a bad driver, they still let him drive. He also noted that a lot of the accidents are caused by motorcycles and suggested enforcing very strict laws on who gets a motorcycle license. Ze’ev took a shot against the light rail of Jerusalem. The MK cited the countless injuries of old people who trip due to the light rail, the inability of ambulances to enter the area, and the business owners who are hurting. He proceeded to blast all the recent transportation changes in Jerusalem.

MK Maklev (U.T.J.) stressed the need for more public transportation and to get more cars off the road.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) praised the seven speakers for their words and proposals. The minister discussed the bus-truck accident in length. Katz explained there is little he can do from preventing a drunk or stoned driver from getting behind the wheel; most of the issue is the police enforcement on these matters. He disclosed that his ministry has heavily budgeted this issue.

The motion passed 7-0 and was transferred to the finance committee.

Other Notes

Because the session ran late, the last motion of the day was delayed to a later time. The motion was on the consequences of the incitement against the ultra-Orthodox sector resulting in yeshiva students being violently beaten.

I want to thank my loyal readers who have supported me through the growing process of my blog’s first three weeks. I feel that the work I am doing is very important for several reasons. The biggest of which is that there is no other person who takes the 16 hours per week to update the public on what is happening and who in Knesset is saying what. I don’t blame anyone because, as I am learning, it is a very hard job, a job I find even harder since I am doing it alone. Another reason is that there are some very good bills that are either being advanced or rejected, and it is important the public learn about them. The more I watch, the more I question the media in their selection of what is news, and what is not important. For instance, yesterday the media decided that it was more interesting to take one line out of context from the Yisrael Betaynu Homeland Security Minister, instead of reporting on the Likud MK who gave a very anti-Obama speech in English. True, not everything is interesting, and someone needs to make the call on what is reported, and what is not. I feel very proud that my blog gives all the information, and that the reader can decide for himself what is more important. In the future, I would like to start writing opinion pieces, I just need to find more time…

Once again, thank you loyal readers, the blog is as much yours, as it is mine.

I updated the about page and added some of my links.

Wednesday’s jam-packed Knesset session lasted eight and half hours. The highlights of the day were the Jerusalem Day speeches and MK Danon giving out President Obama’s phone number and sending him a message from the Knesset podium in English: “Keep your hands off of Jerusalem”.

The Knesset voted on six bills, advancing three of them in their first reading, while defeating the other three. Nine of the twelve motions were passed on to committee or further discussion on the Knesset floor. One of the motions was defeated and two motions were not brought up for a vote. Two ministers answered urgent queries early in the day, while Deputy Minister of Defense Vilnai was stood up by four of the five MKs who had submitted queries to him.

Urgent Queries

Education Deputy Minister Parush (U.T.J.) answered MK Zachalka’s (Balad) query on the subject of antennas constructed next to elementary school buildings, by saying it is the local councils that put up antennas, not the education ministry. MK Ganem (Ra’am-Ta’al) urged the education ministry to take control of these matters before the students get hurt. The minister suggested the MKs speak with the Environment Minister instead.

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitz (Y.B.) answered MK Levin’s (Likud) query on the subject of the police not carrying out the demolition orders of illegal Arab homes in eastern Jerusalem, by stating that it is not the job of the police to demolish homes. The minister explained that they are there to secure those who demolish homes, and that their presence has not been requested at this time. Levin charged that the demolition forces are ready and the police are refusing to send in their men to carry out the demolitions. MK Zachalka spoke out against the illegal Jewish building of Jonathon’s home in the City of David. MK Eldad (N.U.) supported Jonathon’s home which was under Jewish ownership prior to the Independence War of 1948. The Minister rejected claims that the police are holding up the demolitions and explained that it was government policy to resolve the illegal construction issues with diplomacy and the legalization of most of the units. The minister stressed that the police do not create policy and will oversee the demolition of Jonathon’s home if asked to by the government. MK Tzartur (Ra’am-Ta’al) asked the minister a query about the injuries of Israeli Arabs suffered through police brutality. The Minister said that in both cases the MK complained about, the police used reasonable force to carry out arrests. Speaker Rivlin asked the Minister not to respond to MK Yachomovitz’s (Labor) question because it was not on topic. MK Ganem criticized the police for their increased presence. The Minister blasted the MKs, asking why yesterday they were complaining there was no police presence and today they are complaining there is too much.

Special meeting to mark Jerusalem Day

Jerusalem resident Speaker Rivlin praised the religious Zionists for their celebration of Jerusalem Day and criticized mainstream Israelis as being both post-Zionists and post-Jerusalem. Prime-Minister Netanyahu spoke about the historical growth of Jerusalem and talked about his policies that will strengthen Jerusalem. MK Asana (Ra’am-Ta’al) was thrown out of the room for disturbing Bibi’s speech. Opposition Leader Livni criticized the government for using Jerusalem to advance their policies. Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai (Labor) spoke about his father, a historian, and assassinated Tourism Minister Ra’achavam Ze’evi. Meretz Leader and MK Oron questioned why we celebrate Jerusalem day when the city is still divided. He called on the government to recognize eastern Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. MK Orlev (U.T.J.) chose to speak about biblical Jerusalem.

A bill to ban the naming of public places after public figures that are still alive

MK Shetrit (Kadima) slammed the government for standing against his law that would prohibit mayors from naming public buildings and streets after themselves. Deputy Interior Minister Nahari (Shas) said it is not the government’s job to intervene in matters of removing certain powers from Mayors.

The bill was defeated 20-49.

Marriage and divorce bill

MK Horovitz (Meretz) claimed that the need for civil marriage is supported by a majority of the Israeli public, and questioned the morality of each person who votes against his bill. Justice Minister Ne’eman said that marriage must be retained by religious law.

The bill was defeated 9-49

Film Bill (Amendment – Declaration of loyalty)

MK Ben-Ari (N.U.) blasted the policy of giving government money to films that criticize the state of Israel and are anti-Zionistic. Culture and Sports Minister Livnat (Likud) said she agreed with Ben-Ari’s speech. That said, she explained that the Supreme Court would overturn this law if passed, since it goes against the Basic Law: Human Dignity. Therefore the government objects to the law.

The bill was defeated 2-45, with only MKs Ben-Ari and Eldad voting in favor.

Jerusalem Capital of Israel Bill

MK Shneller (Kadima) asked to create a special budget for Jerusalem events that would come from both Knesset and city taxes. Minister Erdan spoke in the name of the Prime-Minister who asked why there was a need for such a law. Erdan explained that there is already such a policy in place and that this law has a fancy name but it has no meaning. MK Shneller explained he wanted to give the issue more meaning and raise the budget, he then asked to change the issue from a bill to a motion in order to have enough votes to keep his issue alive.

The motion was passed15-0 and was transferred to the Funds Committee.

Pharmacy Ordinance Amendment (marking the packaging with the drug’s purpose)

Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) praised MK Levi-Abukasis’ (Y.B.) bill and her flexibility on agreeing to only have her bill apply to non-prescription drugs.

The bill passed its first reading 20-3.

A bill to prevent employment of sex offenders in certain institutions (Amendment – applies to violent crimes against minors and helpless)

Minister Aharonovitz praised MK Chatubeli’s (Likud) bill and told her she had the government’s full backing.

The bill passed in its first reading 10-0 and was sent to the House Committee.

Israel Academy of Sciences Bill (Amendment – goals and practices)

Minister of Science Hertzkovitz (J.H.) supported his fellow party member MK Orlev’s amendment that would adapt the State Comptroller findings on the Science Ministry through legislation.

The bill passed in its first reading 12-0 and was sent to the science and technology committee.

Motion on the Israeli Arab economic boycott of settlement products

MK Ariel (N.U.) started by discussing the liberation of the entire west bank on Jerusalem Day back in 1967. Ariel painted a scary picture and warned of the possible outcomes of the government’s silence on the boycott of Israeli Arabs on settlement products. MK Shemtov (Y.B.) criticized the Israeli Arabs of Kfar Kana for the recent wave of nationalistic attacks that have ended in fatalities of residents from Nazareth Ilit and Beit Rimon through muggings, kidnapping and drive-by shootings. MK Regev (Likud) criticized the boycott, while MK Agbriah (Chadash) praised it. Agbriah also condemned the three previous MKs, while MK Walhaba (Kadima) condemned boycotting products by either side. MK Ganem supported MK Agbriah’s speech and MK Michaeli (Shas) criticized it.

Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Noked (Labor) warned against a boycott on Palestinian products. She expressed that the matter of the settlement boycott is being discussed in the relevant committee, and at the end of the discussion actions will be taken. The minister reminded that Israel just joined the OECD, which includes settlement products, so the settlers should not worry.

The Knesset voted 11-5 and the matter was transferred to the House Committee.

Motion on Druze public protest over the confiscation of their land

MK Walhaba demanded that the government compensate the Druze who had their land taken from them for the national projects of a gas pipe line, route 6 and railroads. He said the compensation can be land or money. MKs Swed (Chadash), Amar (Y.B.), Nafa (Balad) and Ganem all criticized the government’s policy on the matter and the 4 MKs spoke in support of MK Walhaba’s speech.

Minorities Minister Braverman (Labor) supported the five MKs who were looking out for the Druze community. The minister gave a detailed account of the past three years of negotiations and the status of the current talks.

MK Chanin (Chadash) stressed the situation should be discussed in a committee and suggested sending the matter to the House Committee in order to find the right committee to solve this issue. MKs Ze’ev (Shas) and Levin spoke in favor of choosing the Funds Committee.

The Knesset voted 13-0 with an abstention and the matter was sent to the House Committee.

Motion on the meaning and the message in the agreement to freeze construction in Jerusalem and Ramat Shlomo

MK Danon (Likud) insisted there is no freeze in Jerusalem. Danon invited President Obama to visit Ramat Shlomo, and then said in English: “Obama take your hands off Jerusalem. Jerusalem always was, is and will be the eternal capital of the Jewish people”. Danon then read out President Obama’s phone number and asked that every Israeli call him at 202-456-1111 and leave him the message: “Take your hands off of Jerusalem”. MK Ben-Ari asked Danon to give out Netanyahu’s phone number to the Israeli public in order to tell him: “Take your hands off of Jerusalem”. Ben-Ari condemned Obama’s Cairo speech and asked the Likud MKs to stop lying about there not being a freeze in Jerusalem. MK Gilon (Meretz) criticized Danon and Ben-Ari and called for the declaration of eastern Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. MK Maklev (U.T.J.) tried to piece together why the U.S. says there is a freeze in Jerusalem and Israel says there is no freeze. He concluded that there is a freeze and Netanyahu is telling everyone what they want to hear. MK Bensimon (Labor) praised the MKs who love Jerusalem and then praised the freeze in eastern Jerusalem.

Minister Erdan answered in the name of the Prime-Minister that there has not been any guarantee given to anyone on any freeze anywhere in Jerusalem.

MK Ze’ev asked that the matter be discussed further on the Knesset floor. MK Ariel accused the minister of not speaking the truth about the freeze and asked that the matter be discussed in the committee of children’s rights, which MK Danon chairs.

The motion was passed 12-0 and will be discussed further in the Knesset on a later date.

Motion on the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians

MK Ariel wished all the citizens of Israel a happy Jerusalem Day. He recalled the victory over Hebron, the Golan and the Sinai as well. Ariel slammed Netanyahu for freezing settlements and Jerusalem. He questioned the purpose of the talks that everyone knows are going nowhere. MK Peretz (Labor) said the truth is that the government has no plan and they are just buying time. Peretz remarked that in 187 days Netanyahu will not extend the freeze.

Minister Erdan said that he does not agree with many of the Prime-Minister’s decisions, yet understands the pressure he is receiving from the United States. The minister reminded Peretz that Netanyahu has been calling for talks with the Palestinians since day one. Erdan also criticized environmentalist MKs Horovitz and Chanin for not criticizing Netanyahu’s decision to approve new Palestinian cities that on paper are environmental hazards.

MK Ze’ev suggested the matter be discussed in the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.

The motion will be discussed further by a vote of 9-0 on the Knesset floor at a later time.

Motion on the phenomenon of illegal immigrants from Africa

MK Dichter (Kadima) warned that the 25,000 illegals are only the beginning, as Israel is expecting another 15,000 entries this year. He accused the media for lying to the public and explained that only 20% of the illegals are from Darfur. He slammed the army for absorbing the illegals and refusing to send them back to the other side of the fence, instead of transferring them to Ketziot in the Negev. MK Ze’ev warned the holes in the fence with Egypt cause problems with weapons and drugs smuggling, aside from illegal immigrants. He charged that Bedouins in the Negev are charging $4,000 a head for carrying people past the border. MK Levin said the problem is the policy of not deporting these illegal immigrants. He suggested forming a new court system that would deal with the legal issues of deportation. MK Chanin defended the illegals. He spoke of two legal foreign workers who had a baby together and the three were deported (legal foreign workers are not allowed to have romantic relationships or children while in the country). He asked why illegals currently receive more rights than legals. MK Horovitz charged that most of the illegals in Israel are not African, but rather they overstayed their visit on visas. He spoke in favor of both the African illegals and the other illegals as well. MK Levi-Abukasis supported Chanin and Horovitz’s positions in favor of not deporting legal foreign workers who start families.

Minister Misnikov (Y.B.) spoke in the name of the Interior Minister and expressed frustration with the issue. The answer is the new security fence.

By a vote of 12-0 the matter was transferred to the House Committee in order to divide the motion into two and assign them to different committees.

Motion on the desecration of cemeteries in Israel

MK Michaeli (Shas) criticized Israeli society that such desecrations have become a monthly event. MK Moses (U.T.J.) charged that Jerusalem cannot be united on Jerusalem day if Jews are not allowed to visit the Mount of Olives and Arabs continue to desecrate Jewish graves there.

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitz praised the police who successfully secured 2,500 Jews during the walk around the walls for Jerusalem Day. The minister said that over twenty cameras have been approved to be placed on the Mount of Olives, but they are being held up in committee due to lack of funds. As for the rest of the country, when criminals commit crimes, the police arrest them.

MK Ze’ev suggested instead of discussing the motion on the Knesset floor again, they should discuss it in the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee. The minister and MKs agreed with Ze’ev.

The motion was transferred to the committee by a 10-0 vote.

Motion on the settlers shooting toward Palestinians

MK Magadla (Labor) condemned the settlers who shot at Palestinians. He also blasted Jerusalem day, claiming there are two very different Jerusalems. MK Chanin praised Magadla’s work in the previous Knesset, and then exploded at the settlers who shot at the olive pickers, as seen on a film screened by Channel 10. He also slammed the army for not getting involved. Chanin asked the government to take away the settlers’ weapons.

Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai condemned the settlers’ actions and backed the current ongoing investigation. At the same time he defended the army for not getting involved.  He also stated that Israel will not take the settlers’ weapons, which they use in self defense. The minister also reminded everyone that there was not one injury and suggested removing the motion from the Knesset floor.

MK Rotem (Y.B.) wondered how the minister would place guilt on a certain party during an ongoing investigation based on a video testimony. The settlers who fired were civil patrollers who were defending the border of their settlement from a leftist protest. He asked that they not be condemned unless they are found guilty of a crime, even though he is sure they acted in self defense.

The Knesset dropped the bill 4-5.

Motion on the policy implications of preventing foreign nationals into Israel

MK Wilf (Labor) questioned the arrest and deportation of a Spanish diplomat on the charges of spying for Palestine. MK Bensimon supported Wilf’s speech and suggested the matter be discussed further.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon (Y.B.) explained that his ministry has no power in such matters and the matter should be brought in front of the Interior Minister. That said, Ayalon said he agreed with Wilf and Bensimon. The minister said he wants to create a position in the ministry where there would be a person in the airport 24 hours a day in order to welcome diplomats and prevent disasters.

The Knesset voted 11-0 and the motion was transferred to the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee.

Motion on the burning of Israeli flags by immigrant children

MK Azulai (Shas) slammed the Russian community for flag burning. He expressed his feeling that there are more Russian flag burners than there are Charedi flag burners. Azulai called on all citizens to respect the flag.

Minister Aharonovitz briefed the Knesset on the investigation and charges of the Russian flag burners. The minister and MK agreed not bring the motion up for a vote.

Motion on the arson of two synagogues in Jerusalem

MK Ze’ev expressed frustration over the arson committed by secular citizens who entered Charedi areas on Lag b’omer and set fire to the shuls and their Aron Habrit.

Minister Aharonovitz briefed the Knesset on the investigations, arrests and charges in both cases. The minister and MK agreed not bring the motion up for a vote.

Motion on the information released to the buyer in used car sales.

MK Maklev asked why the Transportation Ministry insists on protecting the seller while leaving the buyer blind. He also talked about car insurance loopholes that endanger drivers everywhere.

Minister Meridor (Likud) answered in the name of the Transportation Minister that it was a worthy motion, and that the ministry is working on these very issues. The key is the balance between information about the car that should be released and certain personal information about the seller that should remain hidden.

The Knesset voted 8-0 and the motion was sent to the Finance Committee.

Motion on the “Edva Report” that found that the financial crisis has hurt employees more than employers

MK Mula (Kadima) pondered why Israel entered the OECD if the figures of this report are true. He also warned that Kadima will make it very hard to pass the budget this year.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) cited statistics of the average employee which went up every year from 2003 until the economic collapse in 2008. He therefore suggested that the numbers of this year be taken with a grain of salt, since in the big picture the gaps are not as big as they were a decade ago.

The Knesset voted 5-0 and the motion was sent to the Funds Committee.

Queries for the Deputy Defense Ministry Vilnai

Deputy Minister Vilnai answered MK Ariel’s query by saying that the facts on the question he asked were found to be not true, so he will not answer the query. Ariel praised Vilnai who was a commander in the paratroopers unit during 1967.

Four of the five queries went to the protocol because the MKs asking were not present. The deputy minister expressed frustration to the deputy speaker that he had to wait eight and a half hours to tell MK Ariel that he could not help him, while the other four MKs are at home finishing their dinners

The Knesset marked two very different events today: 65 years since the victory over Nazi Germany and National Student Day. The Knesset also chose today an Arab, MK Magadela (Labor), as the Knesset’s 9th Deputy Speaker, despite the National Union’s objections. The Knesset now has 3 deputies who are not Jewish, MKs Walhaba and Tibi being the others. Only 20 MKs chose to participate in the one minute speech segment and attendance was light throughout the short day that lasted about 3 hours.

One Minute Speeches

Seven of the twenty MKs chose to discuss the victory over the Nazis, while five Arab MKs chose to talk about Arab issues.

MK Wilf (Labor), MK Tirosh (Kadima), MK Orbach (U.T.J.), MK Levi-Abuksis (Y.B.), MK Boaim (Kadima), MK Micheali (Shas) and MK Agbriah (Chadash) all discussed the significance of the victory over Nazi Germany 65 years ago. MK Baraka (Chadash) and MK Magadela (Labor) talked about Israel joining the OECD despite the tough position of Arabs in the country. MK Ganem (Ra’am-Ta’al) and MK Zachalka (Balad) blasted the government for supporting the recent arrests of Israeli Arabs accused of being spies saying it was unjust. MK Zoabi (Balad) talked about the discrimination against Arab students.

MK Zoaretz (Kadima) talked about the recent wave of robbing and murdering elderly people. MK Bensimon (Labor) talked about the national student day. MK Shai (Kadima) talked about his recent trip to the states and reported that American Jews are worried about the relations between Israel and the U.S. The second issue that worries them is the conversion issue. MK Ben-Ari (N.U.) gave a dvar torah on parshat Bamidbar. MK Mula (Kadima) talked about Jerusalem day and how Jerusalem became the poorest city in the country. MK Ariel (N.U.) talked about the settlement freezes ending on Sukkot and the possibility of authorizing building in Jerusalem in honor of Jerusalem Day tomorrow. MK Eldad (N.U.) talked about the end of the settlement freeze and accused the Arabs of destroying Jewish archeological items on the temple mount. MK Levin (Likud) talked about his recent visit to Chevron’s Jewish community and criticized the illegal construction of Arab homes.

Vote on House Committee’s recommendation regarding the appointment of Deputy Speaker of the Knesset

House Committee Chairman Levin presented the nomination of MK Magadla (Labor) who was chosen to replace former Labor MK Tamir as the 9th Deputy Speaker.

The selection was passed by a vote of 28-2. MKs Ben-Ari and Eldad voted against.

Special meeting to mark 65 years since the victory over Nazi Germany

Speaker of the House Rivlin, Prime-minister Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Livni all gave speeches marking the very special day.

Minister Landver (Y.B.), Minister and holocaust survivor Peled (Likud), and Arab MK Bareka (Chadash) also spoke in honor of the day.

National Student Day

Speaker Rivlin gave a speech on the importance of the day.

MK Miller (Y.B.), chairman of the student lobby in Knesset and the second youngest Knesset member, spoke proudly of all the laws he successfully passed in the Knesset, including the Student Bill.

Opposition Leader Livni acccused the Likud of voting against student rights.

Further Discussion on Student Day

MK Tirosh expressed her frustration about the issues of today’s higher education. She questioned how extreme left professors are allowed to use their positions to speak against the state of Israel and the I.D.F. and suggested the education ministry order a poll in order to check how widespread the situation is.

MK Wilf talked about the need to give students more rights in order to increase the number of Israelis who go to college and expressed the need to bring back to Israel the academics who have left the country.

MK Zuabi brought statistics that displayed the number of Arabs accepted into university this year as 7% of the population, down from a previous high of 9%. She claimed that most Arabs learn in Jordan or Jenin instead.

MK Eldad questioned why affirmative action wasn’t enough for Zuabi and told the Arabs to study harder if they want to learn in university. Eldad expressed frustration that his bill that would help students was defeated by the government last week. He also doubted that the Likud would do anything that they promised on the subject.

MK Regev (Likud) talked about the visit to the City of David in Jerusalem that she took with students earlier in the day. She exploded at the universities for discriminating against reserve soldiers, reading several letters her office received.

Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) praised the 5 MKs who brought up a wide spectrum of issues. He said that many of the problems have been there for a long time. He assured that things are getting better, slowly, perhaps, but still getting better.

Other Notes:

Notice by the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee that would apply the continuity law to the Adopting Children Bill. MK Rotem (Y.B.) chairman of the committee asked that everyone support him on this matter.

Today’s session that went a little over 4 hours focused on the two motions of no-confidence in the government on the topics of Charadi and Arab education. A bill was passed and two ministers answered queries. Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) had 23 to answer for compared to Agriculture Minister Simchon (Labor) who had just five.

Two Motions of no-confidence

First motion of no confidence on behalf of Kadima on the topic of “Netanyahu government’s perpetuation of a record-breaking state education gap between secular and orthodox education and keeps silent in front of the polarization, differentiation due to rising violence in society only desire to survive at any cost”. (It didn’t make sense in Hebrew either.)

MK Tirosh (Kadima) complained about the high budget given to the charedi sector. She warned of an upcoming demographic war with charedim and cited statistics that charedim will take over the country. She maintained controlling their education is the only way to modernize them.

Education Minister Sa’ar (Education) questioned the hypocrisy of MK Tirosh who carried out the very policy she is criticizing from 2001-2005 as director of the education ministry and from 2006-2009 as a coalition Kadima MK in the Education Committee. Sa’ar charged that Kadima started this mess with passing the very laws it accused the Likud of following and it is weird to try and bring down the government on something that clearly isn’t its fault.  MK Tirosh was thrown out of the room for disturbing the minister’s response. The minister stated that there were no magic answers, but there are plans his ministry is working on, and they will be publicized shortly.

Second motion of no confidence on behalf of the Arab parties- Ra’am-Ta’al, Hadash and Balad- on the topic of “the continuing discrimination against the Arab population in the country in education and employment.”

MK Ganem (Ra’am-Ta’al) slammed the government’s treatment of Arabs and questioned the democratic state of the country, both in regards to education and employment in the Arab sector. He lectured that democracy is not about money, it is about people.

Minister of Minority Affairs Braverman (Labor) remarked that there are things that are being done, but agreed they weren’t enough. He pledged to come up with new plans that will do more for the Arab public’s need for employment and education.

Discussion on the two motions

MK Mula (Kadima) criticized charedi society as a whole. MK Amar (Y.B.), a druze, defended the government. MK Bensimon (Labor) blamed the charedi leadership for today’s situation. MK Ze’ev (Shas) questioned the loyalty of Arabs to the state, especially MK Ganem who publicly supports Iran. MK Gafni (U.T.J.) listed the amount of laws he passed in Labor and Kadima governments. Gafni confessed he doesn’t try to pass as many laws during a Likud administration because they are harder to pass into law with the left in the opposition. MK Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) went on a rant calling all Israelis racist. MK Ariel (N.U.) suggested Kadima give the Likud a hug instead of voting on a useless no-confidence motion that would surely fail. Ariel said he looks forward to chol hamoed sukkot when the settlement freeze ends. Ariel questioned how certain members of the government could stay silent with the Jerusalem freeze that started in December. MK Chanin (Chadash) wondered if Bibi broke the record for most parties (including coalition parties) that did not believe him or in him. MK Horovitz (Meretz) talked in support of Kadima’s motion. MK Orbach (U.T.J.) blasted his liberal friends for supporting the wishes of the Arabs but criticizing the wishes of the charedim. MK Chutobeli (Likud) said the government has done a lot, and will do more in the charedi education matters.

Kadima’s no-confidence motion was defeated 29-49-1, with 41 MKs not present. The second no-confidence motion fell 24-51, with 45 MKs not voting.

Vote on Amendment to Life Financial Services Control Bill

Agriculture Minister Simchon’s (Labor) amendment would reduce the number of people that would profit from the bill. MK Oron (Meretz) said he objected to parts of the bill but would vote in favor. MK Ben-Ari (N.U.) chose to talk about Jerusalem Day and how few people today care about it. MK Eldad (N.U.) chose to talk about the Jerusalem housing freeze.

The bill was passed in its first reading 21-0 and will be sent to the Committee on Labor, Social Affairs and Health.

Queries to Agriculture Minister Simchon (Labor)

The minister answered MK Finin’s (Likud) query on the lack of funding for neutering cats. The minister agreed it was a problem, and assured he would work on budgeting for this important issue.

Four other queries went to the protocol because the MKs were not present for the minister’s response.

Queries to Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.)

The Minister answered 11 of the 23 queries, while the rest went straight to the protocol.

The minister answered MK Ben-Ari’s query on why the police uses more force on religious people and settlers during protests than they do on seculars (bikers, for instance). The minister disclosed details about the specific protest that was discussed in the query and rejected the general claim that the police show favoritism. MK Ben-Ari asked why the police are punishing protesters when it is only their duty to arrest them. The minister expressed that in each case the commanding officer has his own considerations, and the minister can’t compare two cases effectively.

MK Ben-Ari’s second query was on the Arab protest in Lod where MKs called for the destruction of the State of Israel. The minister defended that there were no laws broken during the protest. MK Ben-Ari said he has video evidence and police testimony that shows otherwise. The minister agreed to watch the tape.

MK Ben-Ari’s third query was on the subject of sentences given to individuals who injure public officials. The MK questioned why the man who threw a shoe at the Supreme Court Justice had an indictment within a day, while the woman who injured him was never indicted. The minister corrected that the woman received two indictments; they just came at a later time. The MK criticized the minister for not updating him on the progress of the investigation and that it took a query on the Knesset floor to get real answers. The minister chose not to respond further.

MK Ben-Ari’s fourth query was on the incitement of violence on the temple mount. The minister defended the police who chose not to involve themselves in a very delicate sensitive matter. MK Ben-Ari questioned why rabbis are held to a different standard than imams. The minister said he would look into the specific situation discussed.

The minister answered MK Azulai’s (Shas) query on the current crime wave in Tel Aviv by the illegal African refugee population. The minister quoted many statistics that the number of cases opened by the police has decreased over the last year and therefore there is no crime wave in Tel Aviv.

MK Azulai’s second query was on the subject of over 160 files opened up against elected officials from 2007-2009. MK Eldad laughed that half of those were against Olmert. The minister said he didn’t know how many of the files were closed, but many never reached trial for different reasons.

MK Azulai’s third query was on the conditions of the Migrash Harusim jail in Jerusalem. The minister answered that in 2007 the jail was transferred from the police to the prison authority and currently has a capacity of 314 prisoners. A third of the cells were renovated in 2009, and more plans are on the way.

The minister answered MK Chotobeli’s query on the destruction of a shul in Nachliel. The minister reported that the torah and books were removed before the shul was destroyed. The MK accused the minister of not following the rules passed by the justice committee regarding the evacuation of outposts. The minister said he was aware of the laws, and not to worry.

The minister answered MK Vaknin’s (Shas) query about the increase of neo-nazi activity in Haifa. Recently, three people were arrested in two separate incidents. The minister cited the number of cases opened in the last five years, as follows: 2005- 2, 2006- 1, 2007- 23, 2008- 1, 2009- 8.

The minister answered MK Ariel’s query about the limitations of the traditional walk around the walls on Jerusalem Day. The minister said the march of 1,500-2,000 citizens needs the protection of 200 policemen. The limitations were also placed because of the vandalism that has transpired in past years. The minister added that the Lions Gate must be kept open for traffic for ambulances, and therefore the route had to be adjusted.

The minister answered MK Eldad’s query on the disruption of Jewish prayers in Jaffa. The minister said that the police are heavily involved in the case and that the MK shouldn’t worry. The MK replied that those who pray Shabbat morning and get hosed inside their shul by Arab neighbors should be the ones the minister addresses that to.

12 other queries went to the protocol because the MKs were not present for the minister’s response.

Other Notes:

The Knesset voted 46-0 in favor of transferring an internal matter from the Knesset house committee to a relevant committee.

How would I summarize Wednesday’s exhausting session that was 15 minutes short of 8 hours? Well we had 6 bills, the first 3 passed and the next 3 were defeated. 9 of the 11 motions were approved, with one being defeated and one not requiring a vote. We had queries addressed towards several ministries. The hot issues of the week were all discussed and interesting figures exposed that 93% of Israel’s academic staff are Ashkenazi Jews made news as well.

Speaker Rivlin opened the session marking Ron Arad’s 51st birthday.

Query for Infrastructure Minister Landau (Y.B.) on the Druze – gas line crisis.

MK Ezra (Kadima) surprisingly supported the government decision on the pipe line and expressed hope for a just outcome for the Druze who lost their land. MK Walhaba (Kadima) charged that the government caused the riots by leaving the negotiating table and not offering the Druze farmers anything. MK Asana (Ra’am-Ta’al) asked why the government allowed the start of the construction before coming to an agreement that would compensate the Druze.

Minister Landau (Y.B.) explained the gas line will save the government a million nis a day and lower the pollution of the area. In the same area there will be additional construction for both an extension of route 6 and a new railway line. He explained that the government tried to come to an agreement but they raised their demands after an agreement was made. The minister expressed there is only so far he could go to accommodate them citing that the law forbids him from giving the land owners the amount of money they are asking for. He explained that negations were held for over a year, and even the prime-minister got involved with this issue. Landau expressed that some of the land owners did sign deals and were compensated and assured the government will live up to those deals. He finished by stressing his belief that even a Druze minister would come to the same decision in his place.

Other Queries

MK Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) criticized Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) for refusing to show up for his query. Speaker Rivlin said he had authorized the query, condemned Yishai’s actions, and announced that he will force Yishai to answer it next week. Tibi explained frustration five minutes later that Yishai was drinking coffee outside, refusing to come inside and mocking him.

MK Maklev (U.T.J.) asked Justice Minister Neeman why citizens are not given access to information on land they inherited. MK Asana and MK Levin (Likud) supported Maklev’s words and criticized Neeman for not doing more on the matter. Minister Neeman read a very long answer that explained the government does not need to do anything in these matters, and it is the citizen’s responsibility. He then expressed his plan to change the issue in the future, adding he will try to upload the information to the internet in order to make things easier.

Consumer Protection Bill

MK Maklev explained that his bill would permit delaying the deadlines on credit cards payments to flexible future dates. Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Orit Noked (Labor) praised the bill that would forbid the bank from taking money every 2nd of the month and would adapt the ways accustomed to in America. The bill passed 38-0 in its preliminary reading, thanks to the government’s support of the bill.

Deputies of the Speaker of the House Bill

MK Levin: Today we have 7 deputies, but we wish to extend the number to 9. Speaker Rivlin said 7 was too much and expressed his objections to the bill yet assured he would support the government and vote in favor. The Speaker warned that he planned on attending the house committee meeting to express his feelings of dropping the bill. 30 voted for, 21 voted against, and the bill was passed in its preliminary reading. Speaker Rivlin said he supported the MKs allowed to vote against the bill.

Bill that will force reporting to Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee on the activities of the Departments of Families Rehabilitation and Commemoration of the Ministry of Defense

MK Yisrael Chason (Kadima) explained that his bill would force more defense departments to answer to the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Deputy Minister of Defense Vilnai (Labor) expressed the government approval of the bill, yet wishes that the bill be sent to the house committee for further discussion. The bill passed the preliminary reading 65-0.

Holocaust Survivors Right Bill

Minister Braverman (Labor) spoke in the name of the finance minister, stating the government has already given 1.5 billion nis towards the issue, but this bill would cost another 2 billion nis that the government can’t afford for the 250,000 people who would fit into the new category under this bill. MK Solodkin (Kadima) said the numbers being talked about are 5,000 people and that very little money is needed. She charged that the finance ministry was providing false figures in order to kill the bill.

The bill was defeated by a safe margin of 28 votes for and 56 votes against, while 36 MKs chose not to be present for the vote.

Veterans Absorption Bill Regarding Participation in Tuition (2 Bills)

MK Pelsner (Kadima) explained his bill would give the first year of university free to every soldier who served a full term, not just combat soldiers. He criticized all the young Likud MKs who campaigned for this bill and now are about to vote against it. MK Eldad (N.U.) expressed his bill goes further than Pelsner’s bill and calls to pay for half of each soldier’s first degree. He added that we have fewer soldiers today because we offer fewer incentives.

Deputy Minister Gamliel answered in the name of the defense ministry, that the government had suggested the same exact bill in September and voted for preparing the bill for a Knesset reading. In December MK Pelsner decided to copy the bill for political purposes. The government plans on defeating this bill and proposing its own bill in a few weeks after it is completed. Gamliel added that the government has plenty of other bills intended to assist the younger generation.

Eldad responded that he submitted his bill in both the 16th and 17th Knessets and now in the 18th Knesset back in March 2009. Eldad asked: “Who wants the credit? Gamliel? Pelsner? I don’t want the credit! I want the help the soldiers. This shouldn’t be an opposition bill or a coalition bill; this should be a Knesset bill.” Eldad asked the government to work together with him on the bill. The government refused and asked their MKs to defeat both bills.

The first bill was defeated 29 to 51 with 40 MKs choosing not be present for the vote. The second bill was defeated 15 for 33 against with 1 abstention.

Motion #1: Thousands of Jews from Europe have signed a petition condemning the West Bank construction policies morally and politically wrong

MK Amsalam (Shas) criticized the Jews who signed the petition as not being loyal to the state of Israel. MK Avraham-Balilah (Kadima) said that neither side wants to see the current talks go anywhere and labeled the European Jews confused with Bibi’s direction. She expressed that other organizations such as J-Street are dangerous. MK Tzarzur (Ra’am-Ta’al) asked if every Jew who speaks out against the government is automatically anti-Zionistic. MK Eldad (N.U.) asked how a petition of 3,000 liberal Jews ended up in the media’s hands. Eldad wasn’t surprised, charging that throughout the years there have always been groups masquerading as Zionists, and there have been similar petitions by these groups from the holocaust all the way until the second Lebanon war. MK Bensimon (Labor) criticized Eldad’s speech citing the freedom of speech and announced his support of the petition. MK Gilon (Meretz) also criticized Eldad, stating that not everyone who disagrees with him is anti-Zionistic. Gilon also announced his support of the petition. MK Wilf (Labor) asked everyone to respect the petition and see what we can learn from it. Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon (Y.B.) gave a speech talking about the glass being half full that led nowhere.

The Knesset voted 8-3 and will discuss the matter further in the Foreign and Defense Affairs Committee.

Motion #2: Tel Aviv Mayor Huldai’s comments on the ultra-Orthodox education system.

Former education ministry director-general and current MK Tirosh (Kadima) explained that in a few years the majority of the Israeli school system will be charedi and Arab. She asked the charedim what solution they offer to the future. MKs Orbach (J.H.), MK Ze’evi (Shas), MK Amsalam (Shas), MK Vaknin (Shas), MK Gafni (U.T.J.) and MK Ben-Ari (N.U.) all spoke out criticizing Huldai and the status of secular education. MK Maklev (U.T.J.) added that it was secular kids who set fire to shuls. MK Horovitz (Meretz) supported Huldai and supported discounting both charedi and public religious schools. MK Mula (Kadima) supported compromise. MK Wilf announced that she was a proud Tel Avivan. Minister of Education Sa’ar (Likud) praised Tel Aviv and said that in his opinion Huldai had grounds for his words.

The Knesset voted 14-1 to transfer the discussion to the Education Committee.

Motion #3: Criminal employed by a manpower company was hired to protect a sick child

MK Levi-Abukasis (Y.B.) said she was upset the law does not prevent such issues. MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) spoke out and supported the motion. Justice Minister Neeman stated the current legal status of the issue and assured that changes in the law are on their way. He praised the two MKs.

The Knesset voted 5-0 to transfer the motion to the Law and Justice Committee.

Motion #4: Financial crisis of the Euro and the influence on the Israeli economy

MK Wahba (Kadima) expressed his fears. MK Peretz (Labor) predicted that there will be a new financial crisis soon. Minister Braverman (Labor) answered in the name of the finance minister, that the Euro was an experiment that crashed because of countries like Greece. Braverman assured that Israel has no reason to worry and that the current crisis will not affect us.

The matter was transferred to the Funds Committee by a margin of 5-0.

Motion #5: More than 90 percent of academic staff in Israel is Ashkenazi Jews and most of them men

MK Gafni corrected the figure to 93%, asking where the equality was. MK Tibi brought the same statistics and added that of the 7% who are not Ashkenazi Jews only 1% are Arabs. MK Bensimon (Labor) and MK Zachalka (Balad) both joined the criticism of the statistic. Minister Sa’ar responded that charedim and Arabs and are allowed to apply for the same jobs and suggested they produce alternatives to Ashkenazi males.

The matter was sent to the education committee by a vote of 8-0.

Motion #6: Comments attributed to Minister of Education that teachers should serve in their position no more than ten years

MK Ben-Ari condemned the words, while Minister Sa’ar claimed he was misquoted. The matter will be discussed further in the education committee following the 5-1 vote.

Motion #7: The PA imposed a boycott of Israeli products and reactions are required on the part of Israel

MK Eldad suggested copying the anti-boycott law from the U.S. in order to fight the situation. MK Ben-Ari suggested the matter be discussed in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Deputy Minister of Labor and Trade Noked (Labor) defended the government’s decision not to act in this case for the sake of the peace process. Deputy Speaker Tibi cut the MKs speeches short, mocked the motion and argued the boycott is only for products from settlements and therefore should not be discussed at all.

The motion was defeated by a 2 to 5 vote.

Motion #8: Classification of national priority areas

MK Tzartzuar blasted the government for not including Arab areas in the plan. Minister of Minorities Braverman (Labor) agreed with Tzartzuar, yet stated he was influencing the government on this matter. The matter was sent to the Interior Committee following a 6-0 vote.

Motion #9: Rise of charedi students in Jerusalem

MK Maklev cited that 40% of the students in Jerusalem are charedi and there should be more schools for them. Minister of Construction and Housing Attias (Shas) agreed and promised to work towards more houses and more schools for the charedi community. They agreed not to bring the matter up for a vote.

Motion #10: Representation of Arabs in Social Security

Zuabi (Balad) asked that the matter that a Jew was named the head of the Social Security office in the Arab city of Nazareth be discussed in the committee of Labor and Social Affairs. Minister Nahari (Shas) answered in the name of the Welfare Minister that they had interviewed Arabs, but the Jew gave the best interview and that is why he got the job.

The 6 MKs in the room approved the motion and sent it to the committee.

Motion #11: Promotion of planning and construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria

MK Ariel (N.U.) condemned Shas for allowing the current situation to happen. Ariel condemned Bibi for the freeze of public buildings, shuls and mikvaot in Jerusalem as well at the settlements, against his own words. Minister of Planning and Construction Attias (Shas) expressed that Defense Minister Barak is holding this up, not his ministry. Attais confessed there has not been any marketing of Jerusalem neighborhoods since December 2009, and has slowed down dramatically starting in 2006.

The 3 MKs in the room (Ariel, Attias and Deputy Speaker Maklev) approved the motion and sent it to the Interior Committee for further discussion.

Shailtot for Justice Minister Neeman

MK Ben-Ari questioned about disciplining a judge and MK Maklev questioned about a government worker who refused to say “lashon harah” on his co-workers. Minister Neeman said it is not the ministry’s job to address either situation.

Other Notes:

Earlier in the day Speaker Rivlin greeted Cyprus’s President and Speaker of the House Mr. Marios Garoyian with a warm speech.

The short session of 2 hours and 40 minutes could be summarized like this: 26 one minute speeches, along with a vote on one summary and one bill. Most of the one minute speeches seemed to be extensions of yesterday’s topics. MKs Ariel and Eldad’s (N.U.) allegations against Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labor) was the only topic that could be considered news. You really can’t expect more from an agenda of 3 topics; by comparison, tomorrow 37 topics will be discussed.

One Minute Speeches

The most popular issues discussed by the 26 speakers were the Holyland affair, the destruction of illegal homes in Tibeh and the Druze riots. MK Bielski (Kadima) was the first to criticize the political corruption of the Holyland affair. MK Ezra (Kadima) joined the Holyland bashing as well. MK Finyain (Likud) bashed Holyland, then surprised everyone by speaking very sharply against the government’s Wisconsin plan as well. MK Yachomovitz (Labor) spoke in support of MK Finyain’s rant against the government in regards to both Wisconsin and Holyland. MK Chanin (Chadash) criticized the destruction of illegal homes in Tibeh. Chanin also announced his support of the protests by the Druze community over the new gas line that has begun to be constructed in their area. MK Zoabi (Balad) and MK Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) condemned the destruction of all illegal Arab homes in Israel. MK Walhaba (Kadima) demanded that the government fix the situation with the Druze and the gas pipe. MK Levin (Likud) questioned why Israel destroys every illegal Jewish home while, despite this week’s evictions, thousands of illegal Arab homes remain.

Many domestic issues were addressed. MK Ariel was surprised that Defense Minister Barak allegedly engaged in political blackmail by securing votes for his laws in return for assistance on the Givat Hayoel neighborhood issue. He labeled Barak’s attempts “Political Prostitution” and questioned the democratic integrity of such a move. MK Eldad said he had encountered the same issue today in a separate committee. He blasted Barak for his alleged blackmail and also attacked former prime-minister Olmert for his role in the Holyland affair, calling the corruption “Prime-Minister Size”. MK Mula (Kadima) talked about racial issues against the Ethiopians in the education systems of Emenual, Bet Shemesh and Be’er Sheva. MK Bensimon (Labor) admitted that Israel screwed up the absorption of Ethiopians, citing the Kiryat Melachi affair during which the city refused to absorb any Ethiopians into the city and they remained outside the city limits for a shabbat. Bensimon asked us to do better with today’s education issue. MK Magadleh (Labor) discussed violence in schools. MK Cabel (Labor) mentioned a few issues with the Milium bill. MK Ganem (Ra’am-Ta’al) talked about the status of the education in the Arab sector, while MK Orbach (J.H.) chose to talk about the status of the religious public schools. MK Wilf (Labor) read another letter supporting her fight for stronger protection of teachers at the expense of students. MK Amsalam (Shas) condemned both Gazit and Huldai for their incitement against charedim. MK Ben Ari (N.U.) taught us from Parshat Hashevuah Behar that we should apply the balance of capitalism (free trade) and socialism (yovel).

Only six MKs chose to discuss foreign affairs. MK Regev (Likud) warned of the danger Hizbolah poses now that they are receiving weapons via Iran. MK Ketzeleh (N.U.) suggested a commission by הצג סקריפט אנגלי the State Comptroller about the situation in Lebanon. MK Peretz (Labor) talked about the need to strengthen the relationships with the leaders of France and Italy. MK Shai (Kadima) suggested upgrading the talks with the Palestinians to direct talk status. MK Tirosh (Kadima) stated that Gilad Shalit is waiting for his release and we need to find a way to release him. MK Smelov-Berkovitz (Kadima) proposed that Israel should host more international festivals in order to improve our international standing, citing one that was held recently that did just that.

Vote on the summaries from the State Comptroller Report

MK Yoel Chason (Kadima), Chairman of the State Control Committee, was very pleased that in 98% of the cases the criticized parties agreed to take responsibility and change things for the better. Chason also criticized the government for torpedoing most of the committee’s reforms. 6 Kadima MKs (Walhaba, Schneller, Mula, Shai, Ezra and Tirosh) spoke in favor of Chason and his summaries. MK Chanin (Chadash) praised Chason and the report specifically in regards to public transportation and the train to Jerusalem. MK Eldad (N.U.) supported the State Comptroller; trash talked Kadima, and reminded everyone how Olmert trashed the State Comptroller throughout his administration. MK Ze’ev (Shas) confessed that in most cases the government wants to implement the decisions but lacks the budget to do so. The summary was passed by the MKs in the room 8-0.

Vote on the State Economic Arrangements Bill

The bill submitted by MK Hanegbi (Kadima) would reduce municipal taxes on residential property used by mentally challenged people. MK Ze’ev (Shas) said this was a good first step, but we should go further and give more rights to mentally challenged people. The bill easily passed 11-0 in its first reading.