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.

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