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

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