The Knesset session took just under 3 hours and 15 minutes this afternoon. We had two defeated non-confidence votes, two votes that widened Minister Begin’s role in the government, the unanimous passing of the Veterans Absorption bill into law, the passing of the Criminal Procedure Bill in its first reading and responses from the Minister of Religious Affairs to queries from three MKs. It was a less than exciting day. The main reason for this was the Ministerial Committee of Legislative Affairs’ rejection of 22 of the 25 bills submitted yesterday and subsequent withdrawal of the bills by their MKs.  The committee approved two bills and took no stance on one.

Two No-Confidence Votes

The first motion of no confidence was on behalf of Kadima, claiming the prime minister has turned the public broadcasting into a political broadcasting station and is forcing employees to use public broadcasting as a tool for absolute rule. The second motion was submitted by three parties (Balad, Ra’am – Ta’al and Chadash) on the subject of the state of the education system in east Jerusalem.

MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), who submitted the first motion, expressed it was a pity that Bibi had still failed to appoint a minister after Edelstein’s (Likud) removal.  A petition of 52 MKs agreed someone should be appointed and Speaker Rivlin said he was the 53rd. Shai claimed that it is a fact that there is no chairman or board of directors, which just enhances Netanyahu’s power. MK Smelov-Berkovitz (Kadima) spoke in support of the no-confidence motion and called on others to do the same. MK Zachalka (Balad) who proposed the second motion to bring down the government would watch the other MKs criticize the government on various issues. MK Yachomovitz (Labor) chose to talk about Bank of Israel report, while MK Sarsur (Ra’am-Ta’al) talked about the pending destruction of illegal homes in Arab villages. MK Barekah (Chadash) asked why Bibi wants to talk, if he is not offering the Palestinians anything creative. MK Ben Ari (N.U.) quoted a Tosefta: “Whoever kills one, history shows he will kill more than one”. The MK slammed Bibi’s trip to Cairo and stated he couldn’t tell the difference between Likud and Kadima anymore.

MK Horovitz (Meretz) chose a different topic altogether and used his time to defend Tel Aviv mayor Ron Choldai’s words against charedim. He got back on topic and challenged that the Likud is hurting the education system more than Kadima ever did. He went back to charedi bashing by making clear his opposition to religious state school and support of full separation of religion and state. MK Gafni (U.T.J.) blasted Choldai’s words: “I don’t know one charedi who burns Israeli flags. The ones who do burn flags don’t vote in the elections and fight against me every election. In 2040 the candidates for prime minister will be me (Gafni), Litzman and Tibi. Stop the racism! I don’t blame Gabi Gazit or Ron Choldai for secular murders and rapists, I expect the same treatment.” The MK added that according to recent surveys Israeli firms are more likely to take Ethiopians, Russians and Arabs for jobs before they take charedim. Gafni concluded by saying: “I’m sick of you liars.” MK Orbach (J.H.) explained that because the government is strong, in order to criticize the government the opposition needs to attack charedim, because they lack anything else to talk about. He said he looks down on people who, instead of solving problems, find it easier to play the blame game.

Minister Meridor (Likud) responded to both motions. He blasted the Kadima party saying their claim was not a reason to bring down a government. The minister responded to the second by declaring there is no east Jerusalem, there is a united Jerusalem. Minister of Education Sa’ar (Likud) said he did extra work in Jerusalem and has recently had two meetings on the subject with Mayor Barkat. House Committee Chairman MK Levin (Likud) began his response by slamming the first motion: “Once again a no confidence vote on nothing, no one is interested and everyone looks bored. Kadima caused the public broadcasting system issues, but you have to pick a subject. It is pathetic that this is the best you could come up with.” The MK proceeded to ridicule the second motion as well: “Where is the Libyan money for the education of east Jerusalem, well I guess you came back with nothing. Here’s a tip, if you go to another country bring back some money”. He concluded by saying both motions were ridiculous and the government will shortly defeat them. The first vote was defeated by a margin of 50 MKs against to 29 MKs for. 29 MKs were not present, and 12 MKs were present but chose not to vote. The second vote was defeated by a larger margin of 49 MKs against to 22 MKs for. 2 MKs abstained, and 47 MKs did not vote.

The government’s decision in accordance with Article 31 (b) of “Basic Law: The Government” regarding the transfer of powers of the Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman in certain cases to Minister Benny Begin.

The curious MK Wahba (Kadima) questioned why the government had made this decision over a year after it was formed. He also wondered about the possibility of conflicts of interest. MK Ze’ev (Shas) supported the idea but objected to transferring the power on matters related to racism. MK Ben Ari (N.U.) used this as another chance to blast the Netanyahu government.  The government decisions were approved by two votes: 41-1 and 42-1.

Veterans’ Absorption Bill

MK Chaim Katz explained the bill, which would allow injured soldiers who are released early to receive the full benefits of a three year service.  It easily passed 33-0 in its second reading. After passing 32-0 in its third reading it became law.

Criminal Procedure Bill

Minister Meridor (Likud) explained the bill, which would speed up the judicial process in certain cases by defining due process, thereby taking certain cases out of the government consultants’ hands.  MK Ze’ev (Shas) warned this bill will strengthen the police investigators and weaken the district attorneys.  MK Ben Ari (N.U) talked about a different subject, the recent Arab pogrom which destroyed 44 graves in Kibbutz Merchavia.  Chairman of the Law and Justice Committee MK Rotem (Y.B.) said it was a bad bill that he intended to crush in the committee and not to worry.  This ended the discussion and the bill was passed in its first reading 11-0. It is expected to be torpedoed in the committee.

3 Queries for Minister of Religious Affairs Margi

The first topic was why the mikvah and synagogue for the yishuv Maskiot in the Jordan Valley, made up entirely of Gush Katif evacuees, had not been approved. MK Levin (Likud) asked why Israel had to act like the former Soviet Union, demanding that Maskiot should be an exception to the rule and work should begin immediately. Minister Margi said he needed to follow the set procedures, and by making exceptions, he’d be showing favoritism.

The second topic was on the need to pay arnona for cemeteries within city limits. MK Orbach (J.H.) asked if the matter was being implemented and if something could be done to change the law. Minister Margi agreed with Orbach, citing other government ministries who are preventing him from forbidding it. That said, he assured that the law is not implemented anywhere in Israel. The minister agreed this was among the most absurd rules he had ever seen and they would have to propose a law against it to remove its current legal status.

The third query on the subject of mikvaot in Jerusalem by MK Katzeleh (N.U.) was submitted to the protocol, because the MK was not in attendance.