Monday’s session lasted over five hours, and the five bills that were discussed all passed. The day started with two no-confidence votes which were easily defeated, but the debate took over two hours. There were many non-legislative affairs today including the government transferring certain responsibilities from the tourism minister to the religious affairs minister. Of the five bills discussed, two were passed in their third reading, including another political appointment friendly bill and a bill that discards some current Israeli laws in order to comply with the International Legal Assistance Bill. The three bills that were passed in their first reading sparked Knesset controversy.  These bills included one that would require organizations to disclose which foreign governments are financing them, a bill that would allow the government to come after a citizen for not paying small fines, and a bill that would allow just about all small claims cases to be heard by a court registrar instead of a judge.

Non-Bills Summary:

  • Minister Erdan (Likud) revealed that even though he makes a minister’s salary he rents the house he lives in. He questioned Kadima’s position that every family should own their own house. Kadima’s no-confidence motion, titled “Netanyahu government failure to meet the housing plight of Israeli citizens, especially of young couples,” was defeated 28-57 with 35 MKs not present. Ra’am-Ta’al, Chadash and Balad’s motion, titled “Netanyahu’s government – an obstacle to peace,” was defeated 21-61 with 38 MKs not present.
  • MK Michaeli (Shas) explained that the Justice Committee found a freak mistake of one word that changed an amendment on the Courts Bill law by accident. The mistake was fixed with a 19-0 vote.
  • Interior and Environment Chairman MK Azoulay (Shas) explained that dividing the Economic Efficiency Bill into separate legislative amendments was needed to implement the economic program passed for 2009 and 2010. The division of the bill was approved 14-0.
  • Rivlin gave an address marking 66 years since the British government’s deportation of 450 Etzel and Lechi members to Kenya and Eritrea. Former Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir and other Israeli leaders were deported.
  • Minister Eitan asked for a continuity clause on an amendment on the Producing and Marketing Bill. The vote will be held in two weeks.
  • Interior and Environment Chairman MK Azoulay (Shas) asked for a continuity clause on an amendment that would grant mayors bodyguards. The vote will be held in two weeks.
  • Two motions were discussed at the end of the day. A motion on international pensioner’s day was discussed at length but was not brought up to a vote. The other motion was a debate on the extent of rights given to holocaust survivors. The motion was sent to the Finance Committee for further discussion following a 5-0 vote.

Bill Summary:

Amendment on the State Service Bill

MK Michaeli (Shas) explained that the amendment would allow a minister in certain cases to appoint a temporary replacement for a three month time period. In other cases they would be allowed to appoint a temporary replacement for a six month period.

The bill passed its second reading 43-2.

The bill passed its third reading 51-2.

Amendment on the International Legal Assistance Bill

MK Michaeli (Shas) explained that the amendment would discard certain Israeli laws. This would help the Israeli law adapt and meet the standards of the International Legal Assistance Bill of other countries.

The bill passed its second reading 38-0.

The bill passed its third reading 37-0.

Government announcement on the transfer of powers from minister to minister

Religious Affairs Minister Margi (Shas) explained that the government was transferring the authority of religious landmarks and cemeteries from the Tourism Ministry to the Religious Affairs Ministry.

MK Zahalka (Balad) blasted the government’s decision, but did not give a reason why.

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) took the opportunity to criticize Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was in attendance. He said that Netanyahu will be giving away all of the religious landmarks in Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians, so there is no reason to vote on the issue. MK Ben Ari also slammed MK Eldad who last week called Jordan the Palestinian state. Ben Ari told Eldad that Jordan is just the name of a river and that the country is on the land of the biblical tribes of Reuven, Gad and Menashe. Ben Ari said that he would prefer Tzipi Livni as Prime Minister, because that would force the Likud to return to the right.

MK Zeev (Shas) called this decision a waste of time. Zeev asked that more responsibilities be transferred to the religious affairs ministry, especially from the justice ministry.

MK Eldad (N.U.) talked about the difficulties facing whoever takes responsibility for the Mount of Olives. He expressed hope that this transfer of authority will assist Minister Margi in making a real difference for the Mount of Olives.

The announcement was passed 34-10.

Note: Even though this wasn’t a piece of legislation I chose to cover this issue due to the high number of speakers.

Disclosure Requirements About Who Is Supported By A Foreign Entity Bill

MK Elkin (Likud) explained that his original bill would require companies and organizations to disclose all the support and money they receive from all foreign entities, not just foreign governments. Elkin named Bureaucracy Minister Eitan as the man behind the inception of the bill. Elkin added that the bill had been watered down in the committee following its preliminary reading and now had little opposition. He added that people who find transparency a threat are people who have something to hide. Elkin said he hoped to bring a stronger bill in the future that would include private foreign investors as well. He reminded Kadima that they voted for the bill in its preliminary reading.

MK Rotem (Y.B.) explained that this bill will not limit any fundraising or shut any mouths. It is a simple bill that requires transparency of countries that fund Israeli companies and organizations.

MK Levin (Likud) called the current version of the bill a moderate watered down bill. Levin stated that most countries do not allow other countries to fund anti-government institutions. He added that the current situation without this bill is that the public has no idea which countries are intervening in Israeli affairs.

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) mentioned that these countries already own property in Israel and now they own companies too. He called on the Knesset to pass this law and expose which countries are responsible.

MK Zahalka (Balad) mocked MK Elkin and called him Mr. Transparency and rolled his eyes. He said that it is obvious that if this law is passed, many countries will back down and stop funding left-wing non-profit organizations.

MK Khenin (Chadash) said that transparency is important, but this bill will only expose transparency of left-wing organizations and will not expose any transparency of right-wing organizations. Therefore, Khenin informed the Knesset, he would oppose the law.

MK Oron (Meretz) objected to the idea that countries funding and influencing Israeli opinion was a bad thing. He called for transparency on which international Jews are buying Arab homes in eastern Jerusalem.

MK Gilon (Meretz) said this bill has nothing to do with transparency and everything to do with politics. Gilon said that the countries that contribute to left-wing organizations are known. He praised Holland and Belgium who are at the top of that list. He went on to name dozens of right-wing organizations and asked if they would also be investigated by the new fundraiser police.

MK Zeev (Shas) asked the last four speakers what they were afraid of. He declared foreign countries influencing Israeli opinion and Iran’s nuclear faculties equal threats. He called the New Israel Fund – the New Ishmael Fund.

MK Plesner (Kadima) said he supported transparency but this bill was discrimination. He called for investigating the evangelical Christians instead. He attacked Labor for supporting the bill and staying in the coalition.

MK Swaid (Hadash) called the bill anti-democratic and political masking itself as transparency. He equated this bill to an American Great Depression-era paranoia bill, seeking out the communists.

MK Zuaretz (Kadima) said that the selective transparency comes from an attitude of whoever is not with me – is against me. She said that Israel has few friends left and this bill will make it very hard for them to remain Israel’s friend. She said that the NIF helps Israel and that the Right should accept that. Pandemonium in the plenum broke out, and Deputy Speaker Miller (Y.B.) called Minister Eitan to order and regained order.

Labor and Welfare Minister Herzog (Labor) said that the first draft of the bill was a crazy anti-democratic bill that Kadima supported. He asked why Kadima is against the current moderate bill, which he watered down considerably. He called the objecting Kadima MKs crazy and told them to read the fine print of the bill before they oppose it.

The bill passed its first reading 23-12 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Amendment on the Execution Bill

Bureaucracy Minister Eitan (Likud) explained that the amendment would allow the government to execute criminal proceedings against people who owe less than 1,000 NIS to the government. It would also explain which government body will be responsible for this issue and how the manager of the department will be appointed.

MK Ben Ari criticized the police for attacking Jews living in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Shiloach when they were defending themselves against Arabs who were setting fire to their streets. He warned that if the police do not respond that the French Hill neighborhood will be next and after that it will be Romema.

MK Rotem said that there are many legal problems with this bill and that after many changes the bill would be acceptable.

MK Levin said that this bill will bring transparency to how government officials are appointed. He also dismissed the idea that we need to find jobs for retired judges by putting them at the head of various government departments.

The bill passed its first reading 10-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Amendment on the Court Houses Bill

Minister Eitan explained the amendment would transfer the court’s powers to a registrar for most civil monetary cases that are less than 50,000 NIS. Last year there were 78,421 such cases. He explained that this bill would improve the efficiency of all parties involved and reduce the judges’ caseloads.

MK Rotem agreed that the courts are overworked and run down. He disagreed that taking cases away from judges was the correct solution. He asked how people who were not appointed judges could function as judges. Rotem asked if the next bill would allow people who did not pass the bar to practice law. Rotem demanded that the assistant of Justice Minister Neeman, who was in the room at the time, listen to this speech. He warned this bill would effectively kill small claims court.

MK Zeev said that the legal process is so long and involves so much paperwork that it doesn’t matter if there is a judge there anyway. He said that if a registrar is acting as a judge, we must then give him a registrar and pay him like a judge too. Zeev asked maybe we should just call registrars judges.

The bill passed its first reading 17-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

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