Wednesday’s session of nine and a half hours was filled with 24 bills, all of them but one up for their preliminary reading. 15 of the bills were passed, three were turned into motions, three were defeated and two were delayed until next week. The Azmi Bashara and Mine Evacuation Bills were among those advanced. The last bill for dissolving the union between two Arab cities was passed in its first reading.

Summary on Non-Bills

  • Urgent Queries for Deputy Health Minister Litzman, Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitz, Education Minister Sa’ar, Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai and Environment Minister Erdan opened the session.
  • Infrastructure Minister Landau and Transportation Minister Katz answered queries.
  • The Knesset discussed ten motions. Seven were passed and sent to their respective committees by the votes of 13-0, 6-0, 7-0, 9-0 7-0, 7-0 and 7-0. Two motions were not brought up for a vote and one was defeated by a vote of 2-6.

Two Identical Bills: Security Fence Bill Between Israel and Egypt

Chairman of Foreign Workers Committee Ketzeleh (N.U.) explained that the ministerial committee of legislative affairs approved the bill, but Finance Minister Shtinetz objected and delayed the ruling. Ketzeleh warned that the statistics today show 12% of Eilat’s population and 6% (30,000) of Tel Aviv’s population are Sudanese. Ketzeleh said that he feared the number was higher but decided to read off the mayor’s statistics instead. He warned that a fence was only the first step. Ketzeleh warned that the Sudanese are immigrating at a higher rate than Aliyah. He called the Sudanese problem the biggest problem Israel has and that it undermines Israel as a Jewish state. He announced the establishment of a lobby of MKs to address the Sudanese problem. The chairman of the lobby, Ketzeleh announced that MK Shama (Likud) and MK Shai (Kadima) will be the vice-chairmen. Overall almost 40 MKs joined the lobby.

MK Eldad (N.U.) explained that a government policy for the Sudanese must be established, warning that a fence won’t be enough to stop them. He quoted Netanyahu’s Knesset speech on January 20th in which the prime minister promised that the fence would be approved within a week. Eldad accused Netanyahu of hiding behind Finance Minister Shtinetz. He noted that the alternative is that the loyalist minister is rebelling against his prime minister.

Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai (Labor) agreed with MK’s Ketzeleh and Eldad. He echoed the call that the fence will only be the beginning of the solution. He assured the MKs that the government is working on the issue behind the scenes and asked the MKs to vote against the bill.

MK Ketzeleh warned that within three years Tel Aviv will have 100,000 Sudanese and Eilat will have 30,000 Sudanese. He expressed frustration that all of his letters and meetings have gone nowhere and called on the MKs to vote for the bill despite the government’s opposition. He asked for a name call in order to embarrass those who vote against.

MK Eldad asked Defense Minister Vilnai why the government would object to the bill if it matched the prime minister’s position. Eldad alleged that the government wants to defeat the bill because they have no intention of building the fence.

Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) asked the MKs to delay the vote for a week and then they would have government approval.

The MKs agreed.

Amendment on the Income Tax Ordinance

MK Gilon (Meretz) explained that his amendment would create an exemption on company tax for public institutions that receive dividends from a sister company. He stated this would be the only way to save the nonprofit organizations from going under because of the Madoff scandal.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) explained that the amendment would create an unfair advantage of competing NPO over private companies and therefore the government opposes the bill.

The bill was defeated 21-43.

Amendment on the Banking Law

MK Chanin (Chadash) explained his amendment would modernize banking customer service in Israel. It calls for the cancellation of fees for basic services in a current account. Chanin listed the many MKs who co-sponsored the bill. He explained that America, England, Australia and Europe all forbid the double “amalot” that customers pay in Israel. Chanin said for those who are worried about the banks losing money, this bill will only cost the banks 19 million by cancelling certain bank fees.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen expressed the government opposition to the bill. He said there is no need for a reform on bank fees since one took place last year.

MK Chanin attacked the government and the Labor party in general for objecting to the bill. He added that the bill would create a single bank fee charge and that it would help the competition in the market.

The bill was defeated 28-48.

Amendment on the Bar Bill (establishment of the Central District)

MK Baron (Kadima) explained this was a bill that the previous Justice Minister tried to pass. He accused the government of giving too much power to the Tel Aviv district and therefore a new district must be created to balance the power. He asked why there is a central district for the police and the court but there is no central distich for lawyers.

Justice Minister Neaman expressed government opposition to a bill that would affect the upcoming lawyer elections.

MK Baron wondered why his bill affects the elections but MK Shama’s bill doesn’t.

The bill was defeated 25-44.

Motion/Amendment on the Prohibition of Discrimination of Students in the Educational System Bill

MK Mula (Kadima) explained that this bill would forbid schools from refusing Ethiopians and other minorities in their schools.

Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) said that racism is found throughout Israeli society. He explained that the bill would reduce the education minister’s power in matters of racism and therefore the government opposes it. He suggested turning the bill into a motion and finding a consensus on the issue.

MK Horovitz (Meretz) a co-sponsor of the bill attacked Sa’ar for not doing enough but agreed to turn the bill into a motion.

The motion passed 35-0 and was sent to the Education Committee.

Motion/Amendment on the Communications Law (Bezeq and Broadcasts)

MK Shai (Kadima) explained his amendment would dedicate an Israeli distribution channel that would broadcast in Arabic for the Middle East. He said the idea would be an Israeli public relations triumph over the anti-Israeli Arabic channels. He called channel 33 a failure and said we need a private investor to step in. He said that an English channel was needed as well.

Communication Minister Kachalon (Likud) said it was a worthy bill but it would add restrictions on certain policies that are being moved forward. He asked MK Shai to turn the issue into a motion.

Shai agreed. The motion passed 20-0 and was sent to the House Committee to determine in which committee it should be discussed.

Motion/Amendment on the Local Authorities Bill

MK Bielski (Kadima) said that as mayor of Ra’anana he learned of the one area that a mayor has no control over, the police. He asked what the 27,432 cops in Israel are doing. He explained his amendment would authorize the enforcement of public order by local authority inspectors in certain simple cases where there are violations but no physical dangers.

Minister Margi (Shas) said there is no reason to spend more money training more people for jobs that are being done anyway. He expressed the government’s opposition to the bill and suggested that Bielski turn the bill into a motion.

MK Bielski agreed. The motion passed 22-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

Ban Israeli Boycotts Bill

MK Elkin (Likud) explained that his bill is co-sponsored by all of the committee chairmen. He stated that the bill would fine Israelis and foreigners who choose to start boycott Israel campaigns.

Justice Minister Neaman expressed government support after MK Elkin dropped three paragraphs from the bill.

MK Chanin objected to the bill and called it a hard case that makes a bad law. Chanin pledged freedom of expression.

MK Elkin answered that this bill will save Israel and is very important.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 35-5 and was sent to Justice Committee.

Stop paying wages, benefits and other payments to Knesset Members and former Knesset members who are wanted for investigation for crimes of treason Bill

MK Yisrael Chasson (Kadima) explained that the “Azmi Basara Law” will revoke the pension of all MKs convicted of treason.

Deputy Minister Cohen (Shas) expressed government support for the bill.

MK Zachalka (Balad) objected to any bill that is directed at his former leader Basara and any bill that takes away a pension.

MK Chasson answered that anyone who wants to protect the Knesset must vote in favor of this important bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 41-9 and was sent to the House Committee to determine in which committee it should be discussed.

Olympic Preparations Bill

MK Orlev (J.H.) explained that his bill would give more funding towards the preparations for the Israeli delegates in the Olympics.

Culture Minister Livnat (Likud) expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 14-0 and was sent to the Sport Committee.

Additional Services for the Education Basket Bill

MK Orlev explained his bill would add more of a school’s services, such as field trips, to the free education basket.

Education Minister Sa’ar expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 17-0 and was sent to the Education Committee.

Amendment on the Lands Bill

MK Orlev explained his amendment will demand the strengthening of condominiums for earthquakes. It will ease the conditions for approval by strengthening the overall program. Until now all buildings built before 1974 were exempt from this law.

Justice Minister Neaman expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 11-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Three Amendments on the National Health Insurance Law

MK Gafni (U.T.J.) explained that the amendment would create a ceiling for a family’s payment for medical services each quarter.

MK Azulai (Shas) said the amendment will end the standard of paying double for the same service.

MK Cabel (Labor) said that he has passed this bill several times in a preliminary reading but never has the bill made it to a first reading. He hoped this time it would be easier to advance the bill.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) expressed government support for the three identical bills.

The bills were passed in their preliminary readings 20-0, 21-0 and 23-0. The bills were sent to the Labor Committee.

Amendment on the Communications Bill (Bezeq and Broadcasts)

MK Cohen (Shas) explained that the amendment would limit advertiser access to consumers’ contact details. It will also create competition for 144 services.

Communications Minister Kachalon expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 11-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Allocation of Negev Land for the Disabled Bill

MK Matalon (Y.B.) explained his bill would allocate subsidies for disabled people to build homes in the Negev.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 11-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment on the Encourage the Research and Development Industry Bill

MK Rotem (Y.B.) explained his amendment would set a limit on state refunds in cases of companies transferring knowledge outside of Israel.

Minister Peled (Likud) expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 14-0 and was sent to the Funds Committee.

Two Amendments on the Foundations of the Budget Bill

MK Chermesh (Kadima) explained that the other amendment by MK Vaknin from last week is identical to this one. The idea is to allow cheaper leases for settlements on the front lines.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen expressed government support for the bill.

Both bills were passed in their preliminary readings 13-0 and sent to the Funds Committee.

National Authority to Evacuate Mines Bill

MK Hanegbi (Likud) received congratulations from Deputy Speaker Avraham-Balila on receiving three innocent sentences on his political appointments affair. She expressed hope that his fourth sentence where he was convicted of perjury would be overturned. Hanegbi explained that a million mines over 200,000 dunam of Israel’s land is a problem and this bill will remove all of them. He explained that 73 of the 80 MKs who were allowed to co-sponsored the bill with him.

Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai (Labor) expressed government support.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 22-0 and was sent to the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Amendment on the Payments to POWs Bill

MK Yoel Chasson explained that his amendment would allow the payment of POW (Prisoners of War) dues to a spouse in cases where the soldier died. He stressed the importance of honoring these heroes’ memories by granting their spouses the money they earned and deserve.

Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai was saddened that this bill was coming too late for others who have already passed on to be eligible for this little thank you from the government.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 17-0 and was sent to the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Amendment on the Local Authorities Bill

MK Magadla (Labor) explained that his amendment would cancel the union of the local councils between Baka-El-Garbiah and Geat. He expressed frustration with the people who tried to bury this bill.

MK Walhaba (Kadima) asked that the government stop playing games and vote for the bill.

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Simhon expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its first reading 27-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

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