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.