Monday’s session lasted nine and a half hours, ending at 1:30 AM. More than six of those hours were devoted to the opposition’s filibuster of the Bi-Annual Budget and the attached Arrangements Bill. At the end of the night the budget and Arrangements Bill passed their first readings 62-34 and 61-34, respectively. The opposition withdrew their weekly no-confidence motions in order to devote more time to opposing the budget. Two bills were removed from the Arrangements Bill and were discussed and voted on separately. I discuss in this post the two bills that were separated at length. As with past filibusters I chose not to write what each speaker said in order to keep my daily posts relevant and concise.

Combining Work Recipients Bill/Wisconsin Bill

Industry and Trade Minister Ben-Eliezer (Labor) explained that two years ago he was one of the biggest opponents of this bill but over time has come to support it. He said that this is the third time that this bill is being proposed and that he is willing to make changes to the current draft based on valid opposition to the bill. Ben-Eliezer said that it is unacceptable that 80,000 people have turned the government “kitzbaot,” or allowance payments, into a way of life. This bill will encourage people receiving kitzbaot, whether they are disabled, ultra-orthodox or a single mother, to go out into the work force. The minister admitted that the trial run of the bill had many flaws but warned that maintaining the status quo was more dangerous. He noted that the country will save money when these people have jobs and their kitzbaot are reduced. Ben-Eliezer asked the opposition to have a genuine debate with him and that he will attempt to meet them halfway. MK Sarsur (R.T.) heckled the speech.

MK Ghilon (Meretz) showed his ignorance at the start of his speech by calling Wisconsin a “nice city” in the northern United States. He added that Wisconsin sounds like Wissotzky tea. He said that the cost of the bill is four times the reward, although he did not say where he came up with that number.

MK Zuaretz (Kadima) slammed the ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel, saying that around the world their community works and only in Israel do they make money from not working. She expressed her concern that the problematic bill would place the lives of poor people in private company hands.

MK Solodkin (Kadima) recalled that the trial run of the Wisconsin Bill failed, and Labor Committee Chairman MK Chaim Katz (Likud) decided to end the trial run. She asked how a bill that sends 60-year-olds to train for a new job or sends new immigrants who don’t speak Hebrew to do Hebrew speaking jobs would work. She challenged that the Wisconsin Bill in the U.S. was successful because it was not as wide spread as Israel’s version would be. She charged that college graduates were working in minimum wage jobs.

MK Oron (Meretz) challenged the idea of sending those targeted by the Wisconsin Bill to private companies instead of giving them government jobs. He explained that since 2004 he has rejected this clause of the bill. He also asked that certain groups be exempt from participating in the bill. He challenged that no country has taken as many liberties with the bill as Israel has. He slammed Israel for being the only country to enact the bill without creating new jobs first. He also noted that in the trial run most of the people took degrading jobs.

MK Barakeh (Hadash) asked why the Likud would bring back a bill they rejected in a committee a number of weeks ago. He questioned if this was the first step that Israel is taking away from socialism and towards capitalism. Barakeh said that the government has a responsibility for those who collect money from the government and remarked that there is no reason for these people to work. He mentioned his belief that this will help the private companies slowly take over the country.

MK Swaid (Hadash) said that the bill does not create more jobs and that it will actually increase unemployment by flooding the workforce.

MK Agbaria (Hadash) challenged that if the bill was so good it wouldn’t take six years to pass. He asked why this bill is more important than a bill to fight unemployment. He wondered if the bill was connected to the private interests that would receive the cheap labor. He added that the jobs being discussed are mostly degrading jobs, and some of them cause health problems.

MK Tibi (R.T.) said that unemployment is not a fun thing. He expressed his feeling that this bill might give some unemployed people jobs, but they would be humiliating jobs so he was against the bill. He asked the government to focus on creating jobs instead. He said the ugliest girl cannot be saved by cosmetics.

MK Levy-Abekasis (Y.B.) thanked Speaker Rivlin for pressing Netanyahu and taking this bill out of the Arrangements Bill in order to have a detailed discussion. She approved the changes and said she was a fan of the current draft of the bill. She expressed hope that in the committee meetings there would be more encouraging updates.

MK Zahalka (Balad) said that this draft is the worst of the bill to date. He noted several “goats” that were placed in the bill, allowing Ben-Eliezer to take them out in order to distract everyone from the rest of the bill. Speaker Rivlin said that he agreed with MK Zahalka. Zahalka noted that during the trial period the companies that participated made money and the workers lost their dignity.

MK Yacimovich (Labor) noted that the Labor Committee discussed the bill and decided to reject it, therefore there is no reason to discuss it in the plenum. She revealed that a billion and a half NIS will be given to private companies that hire Wisconsin Project people. She slammed all the corrupt lobbyists who went door to door supporting the law. She blasted the idea that this bill would do any good for anyone aside from the private businesses. She assured the plenum that if this bill would be passed the Labor Committee would bury the law permanently.

MK El-Sana (R.T.) said that it is impossible to force someone to work if they don’t want to. He rejected the idea that people are collecting unemployment on purpose.

MK Molla (Kadima) charged that a corrupt bargain was struck between Labor and the Ultra-Orthodox parties in which they would agree to support both the Wisconsin Bill and the Giving Yeshiva Students Money Bill. He said that both are bad bills.

Industry and Trade Minister Ben-Eliezer responded by repeating that the current draft of the bill is a new bill and that the 13 MKs who spoke quoted the old bill. He said he heard a lot of reasons why they thought it was a bad bill but not one MK gave him an alternative. He assured that each individual is interviewed and given the right job for them. He responded to MK Solodkin that academics are not being given minimum wage jobs. He responded to MK Oron that he agrees that the government should also hire Wisconsin Project people. He responded to MK Tibi that there are no humiliating jobs and that making a living is an important value. He responded to MK Levy-Abekasis that the bill was a good bill and she shouldn’t worry.  Ben-Eliezer summarized that the current draft of the bill is a good one and called on all the MKs to support it.

The bill passed its first reading 57-34 and was sent to the Labor Committee. 29 MKs were not present in the room to vote.

Amendment to the Broadcasting Authority Bill

Communications Minister Kahlon (Likud) explained that this bill will help reform the Public Broadcasting Authority to meet the challenges of the future including technology and professionalism.

MK Oron blasted the minister for reading out a piece of paper that was given to him and said that Kahlon didn’t understand it. He warned that this bill would allow the political establishment to control the public broadcast by appointing its key figures. Deputy Speaker Whbee screamed at Minister Ben-Eliezer, who was on his cell phone instead of listening to the debate. Oron slammed the clause that would introduce an internet tax in addition to the television tax.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) told the Knesset that the problem with the public broadcast is that the government controls it and that this bill will reinforce that control. He noted that the bill will allow the government to appoint all 13 board members, beyond the director-general. He summarized that this bill will kill public broadcasting as we know it.

MK Shamalov Berkovich (Kadima) called the new public broadcast the BBC or the Bi-Bi-See, what Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu will allow the public to see. She noted that some of the changes in the reform won’t take effect until 2026 and questioned their legitimacy.

MK Barakeh rejected the bill as any type of reform. He said that he supported real public broadcasting and not the government funding its own television station. He also said he opposed the television tax. He asked how there can be real public broadcasting when its employees are forced to support the government or get fired.

MK Eldad (N.U.) blasted the television tax. He said that public broadcasting had been left-wing for too long and did not represent the average Israeli on the street. He warned that the new problem is that the government turned public broadcasting into a government television station and he opposed that too. He slammed the internet tax. Eldad asked if there will be a binocular tax too.

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) said this was a bad bill from a bad government. He also criticized the television tax and the decision to raise it. He noted that half of the population doesn’t pay the television tax anyway.

MK Akonis (Likud) defended the bill and said he would rather the government control public broadcasting than the judges, as it was before. He added that this bill will help the channel work as a fair and balanced channel.

MK Plesner (Kadima) compared the bill to a Soviet Union bill and said this will bring the country back to the 1950s. He said that it was a corrupt bill.

  • It should be noted that public television in Israel started in the mid-1960s.

MK Sarsur called to abolish public broadcasting and the television tax once and for all. He noted that there are over 400 Arabic channels and asked why money is being wasted on an Israeli Arab television channel.

MK Zeev (Shas) said that there is no control and that each broadcaster makes his political opinion known. He expressed support for the bill and the reform. He stressed that television needs an overall reform to protect our children from it. He added that areas that do not have television reception should not have to pay the television tax.

Communications Minister Kahlon confessed he had no authority over public broadcasting. He added that Netanyahu was not the first prime minister to be the minister in charge of public broadcasting. He added that without this bill passing public broadcast will be out of money and will cease to exist. Kahlon revealed that he watches channel 1 more than cable or satellite and thanked the 10 speakers for their valid and invalid concerns.

The bill passed its first reading 55-31. The bill was supposed to be sent to the Finance Committee, but MK Orlev (J.H.) contested it asking to send the bill to the Education Committee, which he chairs. This forced Speaker Rivlin to send the bill to the House Committee to decide which committee will discuss the bill further.

The MKs spent three hours discussing these two bills alone.

Bi-Annual Budget 2011-2012 and Arrangements Bill

Finance Minister Steinitz presented the budget to the Knesset for its first reading. 25 of the 46 opposition MKs participated in a filibuster opposing the budget that lasted hours. 16 of Kadima’s 28 MKs participated in the filibuster and they were: MK Bar-On, MK Plesner, MK Tirosh, MK Solodkin, MK Dicter, MK Molla, MK Shamalov Berkovich, MK Tiviaev, MK Hermesh, MK Zuaretz, MK Adatto, MK Whbee, MK Bielski, MK Israel Hasson, MK Yoel Hasson, and MK Sheetrit.

There are currently 18 opposition MKs not from Kadima, and nine of them participated in the filibuster.  They were:  MK Tibi (R.T.), MK Eldad (N.U.), MK Swaid (Hadash), MK Zahalka (Balad), MK Ganaim (R.T.), MK Ariel (N.U.), MK Ghilon (Meretz), MK Oron (Meretz), and MK Naffaa (Balad).

Eight coalition MKs gave short speeches during the filibuster, naming a few things they opposed in the budget but supporting the budget overall. The MKs who spoke were: MK Gafni (U.T.J.), MK Kirshenbaum (Y.B.), MK Cohen (Shas), MK Orbach (J.H.), MK Ben Simon (Labor), MK Zeev (Shas) and MK Majadele (Labor).

Following the filibuster Finance Minister Steinitz responded to a few of the coalition members’ concerns on the budget and called for a vote.

The Knesset passed the budget 62-34 with 24 MKs not present for the vote. The Arrangements Bills attached to the budget passed 61-34.

The coalition had 12 MKs missing from the budget vote for various reasons. The missing MKs were Ministers Sa’ar, Eitan, Livnat and Peled (Likud), Ben-Eliezer and Braverman (Labor), Deputy Ministers Gamliel (Likud) and Noked (Labor), MKs Yacimovich, Peretz, Cabel (Labor) and MK Orlev (J.H.). Most of the six missing Labor MKs indicated before the vote that they were missing the vote in protest of Netanayhu giving in to the ultra-orthodox.

The opposition was missing 12 MKs from the budget vote for various reasons. The missing MKs were Kadima MKs Mofaz, Edery, Boim, Shai and Ezra, N.U. MKs Ben Ari and Katz, Hadash MKs Barakeh and Khenin, R.T. MKs Tibi and Sarsur and Balad MK Naffaa.