Last Wednesday was a seven and a half hour session. The Knesset voted against the government ethics bill and approved the Baka-Get split ‘superbill’ in its preliminary reading. Besides the superbill incorporating eight separate bills that were merged into one, there were six other bills. Two bills were passed in their preliminary reading, two bills were defeated, one was passed as a motion and one was withdrawn at the last second.

Short Summary on Non-Bills

  • The Justice, Environment and Interior Ministers, along with the Defense and Foreign Deputy Ministers answered urgent queries at the start of the session.
  • The Knesset discussed nine motions, passing five of them by the votes of 7-0, 12-1, 8-0, 7-0 and 7-0. The other four motions were not brought up for a vote.
  • Minorities Minister Avishai Braverman (Labor) answered queries at the end of the session.

Amendment to the Foundations of the Budget Bill

MK Vaknin (Shas) explained his amendment would lower taxes on land that borders Lebanon or the Gaza strip.

Vaknin agreed to wait a week for the government to give their approval.

Eight Amendments on the Local Authorities Bill

MK Magadla (Labor) explained that the amendment would terminate the union of local councils Baka al Gharbiya and G’et. Magadla said that there are seven other amendments on the same exact issue that have been joined into one discussion. He assured the MKs that this is the will of the great majority of both towns. MK Oron (Meretz) attacked Magadla for telling too many jokes during his speech and Magadla teased Oron for being an irrelevant opposition MK. Magadla thanked the Labor ministers who forced the government to support the bill.

MK Walhaba (Kadima) said the concept of a union of local councils is a bad idea and in this case it was a disaster.

MK Shneller (Kadima) said that he voted for the union and is generally for the unification of councils. He said he changed his mind when he saw that this particular union caused many problems for the citizens of both cities.

MK Swed (Chadash) asked why most of the unions of city councils are in the Arab areas. He criticized the unification of councils where the majority of the citizens are against the union.

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) chose to use his time to express his support for full army ceremonial funerals, even in cases of renegade soldiers.

MK Zachalka (Balad) said that both the coalition and opposition support the bill. Speaker Rivlin interrupted and said that it is not acceptable for certain unions to stand and others to be dismantled for political reasons. Zachalka asked that the Knesset not bury the bill in the Interior Committee and to advance the bill, because teasing the residents is worse than denying them.

MK Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) called the union a failure and complained that it took too long for the government to support the bill. He expressed fear that the government will choose to oppose it in its first reading.

MK Asana (Ra’am-Ta’al) said it’s better late than never. He criticized the previous government for forcing a union of two councils that objected to it.

Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) said that this union was forced by a Kadima government. The minister said that the government will only support the bill in its first reading if the treasury approves the budget cost of the bill. Speaker Rivlin interrupted the minister and said that there is enough friction between Arabs and Jews already. He demanded that the government make a decision on if they are for or against now. Rivlin expressed concern that playing games will cause more friction. Yishai responded that the government wanted more time to discuss the bill in order to see if the funds that will be needed for a new council can be allotted. He added that the government was pressured to at least pass the bills in their preliminary readings and the government will figure out the logistics later. Yishai said that the government supports the bills in their preliminary readings.

MK Shitrit (Kadima) gave a half hour speech objecting to each amendment. He said that we should be saving money and unifying more city councils. Shitrit said that the current council can’t pay their city workers, so how do they expect to pay two councils’ worth of city workers. Shitrit charged that this was an attempt to give out jobs to political loyalists and that it would hurt most of the common citizens. He warned that creating new councils costs millions of shekels each year. He said Jews should unify too and asked who knows where the border between Givataim and Ramat Gan actually is. Shitrit also accused Magadla of using this bill to try to earn more votes for the Labor party. Shitrit warned that he would fail.

MK Magadla responded that the treasury has not voiced any objection to the plan. Therefore, he reasoned the Interior Minister should give the government’s approval for the bills next reading as well.

The eight amendments passed their preliminary reading in eight votes: 46-6, 49-3 with 1 abstaining, 43-3, 45-3, 41-3, 36-3, 40-3, and 35-3. MK Eldad (N.U.) turned the session into a screaming match when he exercised his right to demand that each amendment be sent to a different committee, forcing all the amendments to be sent to the House Committee for further debate. This move will allow hard-line House Committee Chairman MK Levin (Likud) to bury the amendments if he wishes.

Amendment to the Psychologists Bill

MK Matalon (Y.B.) explained that his amendment would allow those who are entitled to free psychological care from the State to be given psychotherapeutic treatment by specialist psychologists, instead of regular psychologists. This would mean that the patients would get better care and those who treat them will be veteran professionals with years of experience.

MK Adato (Kadima) said she objected to the bill. She said that psychotherapeutic treatment is not as effective as regular psychological care and therefore she objects to the bill.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) expressed government support.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 43-4 and sent to the Labor Committee.

Amendment to the Knesset Bill

MK Levin (Likud) explained his amendment would force the approval of confidential sub-committees by a majority of the plenum. He also said in certain cases confidential sub-committees would have their protocols publicized after a cooling-off period.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) explained that the government has no official position. However, he explained that he himself supports the bill and calls on other MKs to vote in favor of the bill.

MK Oron said this move will actually increase the number of sub-committees because the coalition has a big majority. Oron also said that sub-committees have five members and only one member is from the opposition. He expressed fear that future committees would become sub-committees.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 42-7 and was sent to the House Committee.

Amendment to the Basic Law: The Government

MK Avraham-Balila (Kadima) explained that her amendment would define general ethics for government members. She said that she knew many coalition MKs wanted to vote for it but were afraid to. She made a promise not to advance the bill if the Knesset passed it in its preliminary reading.

Justice Minister Neaman said that the government plans on advancing an ethics bill of their own, where the government will define what ethics should be included in the law. Neaman announced that the government opposes the bill. Speaker Rivlin added that the Knesset has been discussing a Knesset ethics bill for four years and suggested the Knesset pass their own ethics bill before they push a government ethics bill.

The bill was defeated 24-34.

Amendment to the Basic Law: The State Economy

MK Avraham-Balila (Kadima) explained that her amendment would eliminate the economic arrangements bill. She reminded the MKs that the bill was signed in 1985 as an emergency measure and suggested the time has come to kill it.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) expressed the government’s opposition to the bill.

MK Chanin (Chadash) called on coalition MKs not to listen to the government and to support the bill. He called the current bill undemocratic.

The bill was defeated 16-43.

Motion/Amendment to the VAT Bill

MK Avraham-Balila (Kadima) explained that her amendment was a temporary order that would help small and medium-sized businesses during the financial crisis for a year and a half.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) expressed opposition to the bill and asked the MK to turn it into a motion. MK Avraham-Balila agreed.

The motion passed its preliminary reading 12-0 and was sent to the Funds Committee.