Wednesday’s session lasted less than six hours and covered many subjects. Following the urgent queries, the Knesset discussed seven bills. The three bills dealing with offsetting capital losses of investments in Israeli start-ups, adjusting banknotes and coins for the blind and expanding the maximum capacity of public entertainment business were all passed in their preliminary readings. MK Mofaz’s bill on forcing public institutions to wave the Israeli flag on every work day was passed in its first reading. Two bills dealing with granting doctor house visits to people with disabilities and changing the composition of the appeals committee on adoption and custody battles were defeated. Speaker Rivlin went against the government decision to defeat a vote on a bill that would exempt women from reporting taxes for a business run from their own home that does not gross more than 70,000 NIS per year. Rivlin delayed the vote on the bill for a week in order to convince the government to support the opposition bill. The Knesset also discussed five motions, sending four of them to committee and choosing not to vote on one of them.

For the most part this Wednesday was very different from last. The debate on the motion surrounding the Peace Now demonstration in Tel Aviv was very tense, mostly due to the meddling of Deputy Speakers Tibi and Magadla. Besides that motion most of the session was civil.

Urgent Query to Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud)

MK Ganem (Ra’am-Ta’al) asked about the Arabic Language bagrut exam and complained that Arabic teachers don’t have proper training from the Education ministry. He also added that the current standard for hiring Arabic teachers is flawed because they don’t favor university degrees. MK Swed (Chadash) added that it would be better if the teachers had more time to study the current year’s bagrut exam in order to get better acquainted with the material. Swed added that the school day should be longer. MK Asana (Ra’am-Ta’al) asked about the shortage of Arabic teachers in the Negev.

The minister said there would be new standards for hiring Arabic teachers in the future. He said the Arab sector is lucky because there are plenty of candidates. The problem with the Jewish sector is that there is a lack of teachers today and bad candidates are chosen. He said that he will try to prepare the current teachers accordingly with proper ministry protocol. He added that most of the current teachers were political appointments and were not the most qualified.

Urgent Query to Deputy Education Minister Parush (U.T.J.)

MK Cabel (Labor) asked what is being done for the thousands of children at risk that are not entitled to support from the Education Ministry. He said a total of 45,000 children at risk are not in current programs.

The minister said that 50 million NIS can only go so far and they give out 100,000 NIS to each program that deals with children at risk. Some cities are not involved in the program because giving a city a program means taking one away from another city. He suggested to Cabel that he convince his friends in the Labor party to give money to the Education ministry for this purpose.

Urgent Query to Deputy Finance Minister

  • Speaker Rivlin criticized sharply MK Baron (Kadima) for being the first MK to not show up for an urgent query.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) answered the query on “delays in transferring benefits to Holocaust survivors from Bulgaria and Romania”.  He explained that because of the many people who are asking for benefits, it will take time to give the benefits to everyone. He criticized MK Baron for cheapening the standing of an urgent query.

Amendment on the Income Tax Bill

MK Ilatov (Y.B.) explained the amendment would offset capital losses in Israeli start-up high tech companies. The amendment was proposed as a solution to the lack of international investment in Israeli companies due to a fear they will lose their capital investment in today’s shaky financial market. Ilatov said the added value of the bill is that Israelis will not leave and start up their company in America, and Israel will keep her best minds in the country and create quality jobs. Ilatov said that the bill might cost billions, but the cap on returning investments will be 10 million NIS, and studies have shown that high tech multiplies its investments. He called the bill one of the most important bills of the year for the financial community.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen said the government looks upon this bill as part of the foundation and cornerstone for advancing Israel’s high tech companies to the next level.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 34-0 and was transferred to the Finance Committee.

Amendment on the Bank of Israel Bill

MK Orbach (J.H.) explained that the amendment would force the Bank of Israel to adjust banknotes and coins for the blind when they come out with new bills and coins later this year. He explained that this is the standard law in Europe, although America does not assist the blind in this manner.

Deputy Minister Cohen said that the ministers fell in love with the bill and the government agrees to advance the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 30-1 and was transferred to the Finance Committee. MK Solodkin (Kadima) voted against the bill by mistake and Speaker Rivlin refused to change her vote. He told her to pay more attention because voting is what she is being paid for.

Amendment on the Business Licensing Bill

MK Miller (Y.B.) explained that the amendment would expand the maximum occupancy of public entertainment places from 1 meter per person to .7 meters per person. He said that in America the standard is .5 meters and in Europe it is even less. Miller said that every club and bar breaks the law on a daily basis and something must be done to change it.

Deputy Minister Cohen thanked MK Miller for amending another outdated bill in order to keep Israel in line with other western modern countries.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 34-0 and was transferred to the Interior Committee.

Amendment of the Income Tax Ordinance

MK Shitrit (Kadima) explained that his amendment would exempt women from reporting taxes for a business run from their own home that does not gross more than 70,000 NIS per year. He said that the price of reporting taxes usually ends up being more than the amount they make each year. Shitrit said this was the least political bill he has ever proposed and he begs the Knesset not to kill this very important bill.

Speaker Rivlin said this is one the most logical bills he has heard and does not understand why it was not passed beforehand. Deputy Minister Cohen got up to explain the bill and Speaker Rivlin sent him down. Rivlin said that the government should reconsider the bill and not vote it down. Due to Rivlin’s actions there was no vote. This was the first time Speaker Rivlin has acted against the committee of ministers for legislative affairs during the summer session.

Amendment on the National Health Insurance Bill

MK Oron (Meretz) said his amendment would grant doctor house visits to people with disabilities. He criticized the government for burying every law that was advanced in previous Knessets.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) said he has witnessed three historic accomplishments this week: the Health Ministry’s decision to grant free dental care to all children under the age of eight, a fickle affair over the last few years; the Knesset having its first sexual harassment seminar; and the Female Egg Donation Bill, which passed after a decade-long debate. Litzman cited these examples to show that the government is not afraid to tackle long standing problems. He said he understands the problem Oron is raising, but he disagrees with his solutions. Litzman offended Oron when he said that Oron’s solutions go against the Basic Law: the respects and freedoms of people. Therefore the government asks the Knesset to vote against it.

The bill was defeated 29-43

Amendment on the Welfare Services Bill

MK Solodkin explained her amendment would change the composition of the appeals committee in adoption cases and cases regarding the decision on where children live in custody battles. The new members of the committee would be more lenient. She mentioned that the bill was first proposed by Minister Sa’ar when he was an MK and the bill passed its first reading. She questioned why he now opposes it.

Minister Erdan (Likud) said that the government wanted to review the bill longer, but MK Solodkin forced the government to give an answer now – so they opposed.

The bill was defeated 25-47.

Amendment on the Land Bill

MK Shai (Kadima) explained his amendment would place a restriction on the transfer of land rights to foreigners. He explained the current situation allows outside hostile forces to take control of certain areas. He said this bill is a historic monument in Israel’s quest of securing its citizens.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 27-0 and was transferred to the Justice Committee.

Amendment on the Flag, Emblem and Anthem of the State Bill

MK Mofaz (Kadima) explained his amendment would force public institutions to wave the Israeli flag on every work day.

Minister Margi (Shas) said that the government supports the bill.

The bill passed its first reading 28-3 and was transferred to the Interior Committee.

  • The Local Authorities Bill amendment which would cancel the merging of local councils Baka al Gharbiya and Get was postponed and taken off the agenda.

Motion on the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to examine Israel’s actions in stopping Gaza flotilla

MK Walhaba (Kadima) criticized Netanyahu’s speech following the Flotilla affair in which Netanyahu told the world they were hypocrites. He noted that the Flotilla had been planned from February and it is a pity the government did not act wisely within the four month time frame they were given. He charged that not only did the cabinet not vote on the issue, but the seven-man security cabinet did not vote on the issue either. He labeled the big three (Netanyahu, Barak and Liberman) as the only ones who discussed Israel’s response to the Flotilla. He called for a probe that will investigate whether the right decision was made.

MK Agbaria (Chadash) said that the Flotilla was a union of people from dozens of countries who are opposed to the Gaza blockade.

MK Zachalka (Balad) said Israel violated international law in the Flotilla affair. He said that every country condemned Israel, including their friend America. Zachalka said that Israel is rejecting an international probe because they know that the probe will find Israel responsible. He credited the Flotilla with bringing Israel’s three year blockade to the front papers where it belongs. Zachalka called Defense Minister Barak a dangerous man. He summarized his speech by calling Israel a “Criminal State”.

MK Orlev (J.H.) stated that anyone who was against Israel’s response to the Flotilla is a person who denies Israel’s right to self defense and a policy that secures its citizens. Orlev said that because the Arab MKs reject Israel as a Jewish democratic state, their words have no legitimacy. He questioned why no one wants a probe on the Rachel Carrie boat. Orlev answered that it is because there were no terrorists on the Rachel Carrie who attacked Israeli soldiers. He asked that the Israeli probe not investigate issues of self defense and instead focus on intelligence and public relations.

MK Ariel (N.U.) eulogized Harav Moredachi Eliyahu and discussed the legacy of the rabbi who had 150,000 people at his funeral. He explained the mitzvah of “one who comes to kill you, rise up first and kill him”, otherwise known as self defense. Ariel reminded everyone that the five other ships were peaceful. Ariel blasted the government decision to deport those who injured Israeli soldiers. He said he understands the international pressure, but by releasing the terrorists Israel promotes terror. Ariel said Hamas has no intention of releasing Gilad Shalit and called for ending the pointless negotiations.

MK Ganem condemned the attack on a mosque near Haifa and made a parallel between the attack on the mosque and the treatment of MK Zoabi. He chose to offer Israel a few sentences of Arabic as his fellow party MK Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) snored in his seat. He said Israel must have something to hide if they reject an international probe.

Minister Begin (Likud) addressed the six MKs’ motions with highlights from Hamas Leader Mashal’s latest interview. Mashal stated that there is no cease fire with Israel and that the blockade on Gaza is preventing Hamas from arming themselves for an all out war. The minister said he would like to hope that all 120 MKs agree that Hamas arming themselves for a war is wrong and therefore should support the blockade. He said that if the blockade is justified then the enforcement is justified. If the enforcement of the blockade is justified then Israel’s response to the Flotilla’s hostiles is justified. The IHH foundation that funded the Flotilla was quoted as saying they were going to make it to Gaza or die trying. One of the journalists on the Marmara ship branded the Flotilla a Muslim conquest. Begin assured that everything Israel did was allowed under international law. He said that he had full confidence that the Israeli probe would support every government and military decision in the Flotilla affair. He criticized the type of probe Kadima is calling for, since they have already decided to place the blame on the government for everything that they think went wrong. He asked why Kadima, who supported the government’s decisions, wants a probe on how the government reached those decisions. Begin said he viewed the issue as hypocrisy. He said that no government can run if they are asked to authorize a probe every time a decision is made in discretion. Begin took a minute to criticize a journalist who wrote a commentary which was titled “Begin is an idiot”. He went on to criticize the international community who send their troops 5,000 miles to Afghanistan and criticize Israel, who defends its borders.

MK Ze’ev condemned MK Tibi who cursed the Yisrael Beytanu MKs in Russian and incited violence against them.

MK Asana said that the problem with Israel’s government is that not one country agrees with them. He also said that he is against the occupation of Palestine.

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said he supported the government’s decision to enforce the blockade, but he didn’t support the way the government decisions are made in general.

MK Tibi said when Israel invades international waters and kills citizens of other countries they need to answer for it. He said that if there were weapons on the boat he thinks the world would have seen it on television.

The Knesset voted 5 in favor of further discussion in the plenum and 10 in favor of sending it to the House Committee. Therefore there will be no plenum discussion and the House Committee will decide which committee the motion will be sent to.

Motion on the Israeli Hasbara against anti-Israel demonstrations in Europe and Turkey

MK Shai criticized the new hasbara ministry of not doing its job. He does not blame Hasbara Minister Edelstein, but he does blame the government. He said that there should have been a plan to counter the Flotilla propaganda. Shai said we don’t want to win the battle, we want to win the war.

MK Amsalam (Shas) asked why our hasbara was so bad. He asked why the world never asked for an international probe into Afghanistan or Iraq. His answer was that historically the world has been against the Jews. He suggested all Jews return to Judaism and then we will truly be a light unto the other nations.

MK Moses (U.T.J.) suggested the probe should examine why the international community is condemning us for defending ourselves.

MK Cabel said that the government has some nerve to think that the sole person that is responsible for Israeli hasbara is Minister Edelstein. He respects Edelstein but says the higher ministers should also take part in the hasbara as well. Cabel suggested that Deputy Prime Minister Ya’alon, who was acting Prime Minister at the time of the Flotilla, is the one who acted unwisely and that he should be investigated by the probe.

Hasbara Minister Edelstein (Likud) addressed the four speakers by saying that he takes partial responsibility for Israel’s failure in the hasbara around the Flotilla affair.  He stated that the international fall out is highly exaggerated. Edelstein said that the Israeli media is exaggerating Israel’s poor standing in the international media and questioned if they were watching Fox News, CNN or Al-Jazeera? Edelstein said the job of hasbara is not to decide Israeli policy but to portray that policy to the international media, therefore the question of did the hasbara fail is a matter of perception. He recalled a session he attended in the European Union where he defended Ehud Barak during a motion that stated that Barak kills Palestinian kids every day for kicks before he eats his breakfast. He said that hasbara in these issues will not present a knock out. Edelstein says that his ministry is doing a lot of good work and discussed a meeting he had before the session with a White House official.

MK Michaeli (Y.B.) quoted one of Foreign Minister Liberman’s interviews on the hasbara of the Flotilla affair.

MK Regev (Likud) asked that Edelstein join the security cabinet so that he can be better informed of Israeli decisions and prepare for his job accordingly.

MK Yoel Hasson asked that Edelstein ask for more power so that his ministry becomes one of the more important ministries in the government.

MK Michaeli (Shas) said that the government should trust the coalition MKs to be part of the hasbara effort.

MK Wilf (Labor) criticized Foreign Minister Liberman for not doing enough in the hasbara effort during the Flotilla affair.

MK Pelsner (Kadima) said that Israel must change its policy in order to have a better hasbara effort.

MK Gilon (Meretz) said Israel needs to act more and talk less.

Minister Begin criticized Pelsner and reminded him that Netanyahu’s government is following the policy set by Kadima Prime Minister Olmert.

The Knesset voted 5 in favor of further discussion in the plenum and 5 in favor of sending it to the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee. Deputy Speaker Tibi ruled that the tie would be in favor of sending the motion to the committee.

Motion on the demonstration by the Peace Now movement and the confrontation between right and left activists

MK Smalatov-Berkovitz (Kadima) criticized the demonstration that takes place every year against the government decision to go ahead with the six day war. The demonstration this year turned into a solidarity movement with the Flotilla, and MK Zoabi spoke to the international press stating she is not a member of the Israeli people, but a citizen of the world. Smalatov-Berkovitz said these organizers say they want peace, yet many of the participants call for a war against the Jewish people. Deputy Speaker Tibi chose to stop the MK’s speech in the middle and asked her to step off the podium. Smalatov-Berkovitz did not end her speech then and went on for another minute. She asked that Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitz not permit these types of protests in the future.

MK Gilon said there is a new wave of patriotic orgies. Gilon said orgy in various parts of the speech, but I will spare you where he chose to insert that word. Gilon criticized the “occupation”, now in its 43rd year. He condemned the right wing counter protesters and the new wave of patriotism. Gilon spent the rest of his speech attacking MK Smalatov-Berkovitz.

Deputy Speaker Magadla (Labor) forbade MK Smalatov-Berkovitz from defending herself and suggested she join next year’s counter demonstration. He asked her when she made aliyah. When she responded 1979, Magadla reminded her that all the Arab MKs were here before her and witnessed the six day war personally. He suggested that she check what the leaders of Israel said about the occupied territories after the war. Deputy Speaker Magadla went on to discuss the motion from the Speaker’s chair. He quoted Prime Minister Eshkol that the point of keeping the territory conquered during the six day war was in order to negotiate a lasting peace with Israel’s neighbors. Magadla charged that was when Israel lost its standing in the international arena. MK Ze’ev heckled him and soon all the Jewish MKs joined. Magadla chose to stop speaking and bring up Tibi who had just returned from the bathroom.

MK Tibi said this was the month of Kahaneh in the Knesset, and perhaps the entire summer session is the summer of Kahaneh. He asked why protesters are being criticized when it is a legitimate democratic right to protest. Tibi switched back with Magadla, so that he would be able to speak.

MK Magadla said that some might call it freed land and some might call it occupied land. The important thing is that it becomes part of the dialogue. He pointed to MK Gilon as one of many Jews who agree with him. Magadla said there would be no peace without the return to the 1967 borders.

Minister Begin said that the police secured the protest and the counter protest and had many undercover policemen ready in case of a disturbance. One person did throw a grenade, and he was arrested. There may have been verbal abuse, but not one person has filed a complaint about being attacked in the protest.

MK Oron said he doesn’t go to protests where the majority of Israel agrees with him. He said if everyone agreed with him there wouldn’t be a protest. Oron said he wouldn’t protest in Sderot when he can protest in Tel Aviv.

MK Yoel Hasson said that most Israelis are patriots and that Kadima is very proud not to be part of Meretz. He reminded that Kadima’s 28 MKs is more than Meretz’s 3 MKs. He said that even though he disagreed with the protest the beauty of Israel’s democracy is that everyone is allowed to protest.

MK Pelsner echoed MK Hasson’s speech and added as long as people protest that means they believe they can change things and that they believe in democracy.

The Knesset agreed not to vote on the motion and to defeat it.

Motion on the allocation of public housing for homeless residents and young couples in urban land developments that have not yet been marketed

MK Regev said that in the 1950s and the 1990s the country took in millions and found them housing. She charged that the country could find a solution for every person to have a home if they wanted to. She said that an ever-increasing number of couples are returning to live in their parents’ houses and that this situation is unacceptable for a modern country. Regev said that we are in a housing crisis where people can’t afford homes.

MK Moses said that the Treasury “boys” are dictating the housing policy and asked the minister to dismiss their heartless and radical projections. Moses reminded that when Netanyahu was Finance Minister he cut off the Treasury boys’ heads and did what he wanted – and that saved Israel’s economy. He charged that most of the time we listen to the Treasury boys and most of the time they are wrong. He said that the density of the population is between Hadera and Gadera and the public should be provided housing outside of that area. He said he supports the new projects in Safed and Bet Shemesh, but he says the Chareidi community alone has a shortage of 40,000 housing units today, not to mention the other sectors.

Housing and Construction Minister Attias (Shas) said that he is doing everything he can to provide more public housing and that he is bound by current laws and regulations. Attias cited his many accomplishments over the past year as reasons why they should trust he will solve this issue over the next few years of his term. He said that he has 15,000 apartments ready to be marketed in Rosh Hayan but can’t market them until they finish building a new interchange on the number 5 highway, which are the responsibilities of the Transportation ministry. Attias also placed a lot of the blame on the Finance ministry and mayors who don’t want to cooperate and receive lower income families.

The motion was passed 7-0 and transferred to the Funds Committee.

Motion on the criticism and debate around the conduct and delay of the construction of the Jerusalem light railway

MK Ze’ev, former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, complained that the Justice and Finance Ministers do not show up to motion debates and therefore he doesn’t get a clear government position. He said that the endless delays have caused people to leave Jerusalem. Ze’ev asked how ambulances can treat terrorist attack victims if all it takes is a traffic light to fall and the city is closed for an hour. He criticized that Citypass no longer has an end date for the light rail project and asked where the billions of NIS have gone. Ze’ev also asked why we wasted money on a stupid bridge no one uses.

Minister Attias said the Transportation ministry assures the light rail will be completed by April 2011.

MK Adato (Kadima) said that the light rail project must be investigated with a probe.

MK Moses said there must be a solution for emergency services to enter the center of the city.

The motion passed 6-0 and was transferred to the Finance Committee.