Last Wednesday’s session lasted about eight hours and fifteen minutes. It was just the 200th session since elections were held about two years ago. 15 bills were discussed. Seven bills were advanced, four were turned into motions to avoid defeat and four were defeated. The bills advanced included a bill forcing every government office to have afternoon hours for the public, two bills combating the housing crisis and a bill that prohibits celebrities and athletes from participating in the advertising and marketing of alcoholic products.


Non-Bills Summary

  • Transportation Minister Katz (Likud), Labor and Welfare Minister Herzog (Labor), Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) and Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.
  • Two motions on creating a committee to investigate the funding of left-wing groups were passed 41-17 and 38-17.
  • Seven other motions on various topics in the news were discussed. Six of them passed by the votes of 11-1, 4-1, 4-3, 6-0, 5-0 and 4-0. One motion was defeated when they decided not to vote on it.


Bills Summary

Amendment to the Penal Code Bill

MK Hotovely (Likud) explained that her amendment will prohibit the publication of sexual abuse victims’ photos and that violators would be fined heavily.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 26-0 and was sent to the House Committee to determine which committee will discuss the bill further. Speaker Rivlin wanted the Justice Committee; Hotovely wanted the Women’s Rights Committee.

Providing Public Service in Other Public Government Bodies in the Afternoon Bill

MK Shama (Likud) slammed the current situation where citizens are required to take a vacation day in order to run errands in government offices because most of them are closed in the afternoon. He explained that his bill would require every government body that sees the public to be open at least one day each week during the afternoon. He expressed his feeling that this would help the citizens receive the benefits and services they deserve.

Minister Eitan (Likud) expressed government support for the bill. He stated that in the future he hoped that everything could be done online or by telephone to eliminate the need for citizens to wait in line at government offices.

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

Limitation of Advertising and Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill

MK Danon (Likud) expressed disgust at pictures from New Years parties that show hundreds of middle school children drunk and rioting. He explained his amendment would increase the limitations already in place on advertising and marketing alcoholic beverages, such as prohibiting celebrities and athletes from participating in any published, audio or video advertisement.

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

The bill passed its preliminary reading 35-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill

MK Amar (Y.B.) explained that his amendment would require a minimum sentence for any person who abandons an injured person in an accident. He called hit-and-run criminals the same as murderers.

Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that the government is against all minimum sentences.

Speaker Rivlin noted that MK Matalon and MK Bielski both have similar bills, and those bills passed.

MK Amar agreed to change his bill to meet the requirements of the other two bills.

Minister Katz decided to express government support on the grounds that Amar joins Matalon’s and Bielski’s bills.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 36-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Amendment to the Housing Loans Bill

MK Vaknin (Shas) said that if the public housing and housing shortage crisis are not solved, he will resign from the Knesset in protest. He slammed the cutting of budgets that help former soldiers who want to build a house in the Galil and Negev. He attacked the government for killing the Galil and Negev. He explained his amendment would have the government participate in the mortgages and loans that are used to purchase an apartment in developing areas such as the Galil and Negev.

Housing Minister Atias (Shas) confessed the housing shortage is overwhelming and the government’s band-aids are not working. He informed that his ministry does not have enough money to implement this bill and the Finance Ministry refuses to release enough money to support this bill. Atias said that, despite the Finance Ministry’s refusal to release funds, the government supports the bill.

MK Plesner (Kadima) noted that the Prime Minister and Finance Minister are against the bill and that is why they are not present for the vote. He informed Vaknin that they intend to bury this bill in the committee. He blasted the bill that would give equal preference to those who served in the army and those who did not. He slammed the fact that settlements will receive benefits but certain cities like Tiberias, Carmiel and Kiryat Gat will not.

MK Vaknin told Plesner that his speech was full of holes and lies. He attacked Plesner for objecting to a bill that is the first step in solving the housing crisis.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 57-0 with Plesner abstaining and was sent to the House Committee to determine which committee will discuss the bill.

Amendment to the Housing Loans Bill

MK Moses (U.T.J.) said that the housing crisis is a national emergency. He said that he is a co-sponsor of Vaknin’s bill, but he feels that a more widespread bill is needed. He explained that his amendment would require the government to participate in loans and rebates to help citizens purchase their first apartment. He hoped that people who are living in garages and storage rooms will be able to move out and buy their own place thanks to his bill. He criticized the newspaper Globes for saying that Haredim secretly bought 70 apartments in Afula. He explained that there is no housing anywhere else and they need to move as a community because they are Chasidim.

No minister was present to express government support or opposition.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 34-0 and was sent to the House Committee to determine which committee will discuss the bill.

Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill

MK Ezra (Kadima) explained that his amendment would force the Transportation Ministry to provide information regarding the mortgage and licensing of vehicles.

Transportation Minister Katz expressed government support for the bill.

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

Motion/Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill

MK Tirosh (Kadima) explained that her amendment would require the renewal of driver’s licenses every five years for commercial vehicles, public vehicles and vehicles weighing more than 4000 kg. She noted statistics that present a strong case for her bill, and she slammed the government for opposing the bill.

Transportation Minister Katz stated that elderly people receive licenses and drive into their 80s even if they are heavy vehicles and noted statistics that support his position. He noted that eye sight is the main issue in aging and there already is a law that forces citizens over the age of 40 to bring an eye test every ten years in order to keep their license. He asked Tirosh to turn the bill into a motion in order to gain his support.

MK Tirosh agreed.

The motion passed 30-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance Bill

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained that his amendment would allow senior citizens to pull out at one time their entire financial benefits package.

Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) explained that the government opposes the bill on the grounds that the government policy is that the senior citizens receive their benefits in stages. He suggested that the economy might collapse if they had to pay all the senior citizens their full packages the minute they retired. He added that the various packages are supervised by different government bodies and therefore it is also technically impossible to carry out.

MK Sheetrit said that this forces elderly people to invest their money in the stock market and encourages younger people to invest their money elsewhere.

The bill was defeated 18-41.

Amendment to the Government Bill

MK Tiviaev (Kadima) explained that his amendment would reduce the number of ministers to 18 by eliminating all of the minister positions that do not have portfolios. He noted that Minister Sa’ar felt that any government with more than 18 ministers was inflated just two years ago. Tiviaev explained that he submitted Sa’ar’s bill without touching it. He noted that not one western country has 30 ministers or cabinet secretaries. He explained that the coalition is robbing the country of billions of NIS with this inflated government. He went on to quote current Likud ministers when they spoke out in the previous Knesset against an overflow of ministers.  He warned that the next government will have 35 ministers. He noted that the bill would allow the government to keep their ministers if they set up for them regular government agencies.

Environment Minister Erdan said he respects Tiviaev personally but that this bill was a joke. He noted that every government has raised the number of ministers, including Kadima. He attacked Kadima for not supporting the bill when Sa’ar proposed it over two years ago. He noted that the only Prime Minister to have fewer than 19 ministers was Netanyahu’s government of 18 ministers from 1996-1999. He said he wished that Kadima accepted the bill earlier, because there would be a lot fewer ministers this time around. He attacked Kadima for not proposing the bill for future governments but pointing directly at this one.

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said that the government cares more about survival than justice. He went on to quote Netanyahu and Livnat from the protocol of Sa’ar’s bill in which they praised the bill and insisted when they were in power they would stop the inflation. Hasson noted that Olmert had two deputy ministers and Netanyahu has nine.

The bill was defeated 16-36.

Amendment to the Film Bill

MK Yoel Hasson said there is Netanyahu A when he is opposition leader and Netanyahu B when he is prime minister. He went on to attack Netanyahu for ten minutes and endured coalition MKs heckling him. He explained his amendment presents a temporary provision that would raise the budget of Israeli film from 65 million to 100 million only for the year of 2011. He asked that the bill be turned into a motion.

Sports and Culture Minister Livnat (Likud) objected to the bill and to the motion. She said she came to an agreement with the film industry on 65 million per year and attacked Hasson for trying to use them for political gain. She praised Speaker Rivlin for writing the original Film Bill. She noted that over 320 movies were produced over the last two years of which 230 were shown in international festivals. She noted the Golden Globes and several other awards during that period. She praised the agreement signed with the leaders of the film industry and called Hasson’s bill pathetic and wondered if he even read the agreements. She noted that Hasson’s bill would revoke the money that the film receives in the deal and therefore the entire film industry stands against this bill. She went on to read the long list of people who signed the agreement from the industry and from Kadima. She went on to attack Livni and her two million NIS budget as opposition leader. She said she will defeat Hasson’s bill with pleasure.

MK Hasson said that he hoped Livnat enjoyed taking a stab at Opposition Leader Livni because she will be the next prime minister and Livnat has been passed over once again in the dust far far behind.

The bill was defeated 8-31.

Two Motions/Amendments to the State Education Bill

MK Zoabi (Balad) explained that her amendment would limit the number of students in State kindergardens and elementary school classrooms. She suggested spending money to physically build new classrooms so that they can be filled. She said that the crowding of classrooms is unacceptable.

MK Tirosh explained that her similar bill that she co-sponsored with MK Itzik is important and she hopes to see it become law, despite the government’s opposition.

Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) said he agrees with the bills but does not have the budget to implement them. He asked Zoabi and Tirosh to turn their bills into motions, which they agreed to do. He agreed to grant government support for the motions and to have a debate in the committee. He noted that a program to reduce class sizes took effect last year in middle schools and high schools. He explained that he would rather spend money giving teachers higher salaries than shrinking the classrooms. He stated that Israel has the highest birth rate in the OECD and yet we have fewer children per classroom than Japan and South Korea.

The motions passed 20-0 and were sent to the Education Committee.

Financial Reimbursement for Civil Marriages Bill

MK Horowitz (Meretz) said that the flights to Cyprus are filled with Israelis who are going there to get married. He noted that the mayor of Larcena has married more Israelis than any Rabbi in Israel. He blasted Israel for being one of only two countries (Lebanon is the other) that forces people to marry out of the country if they seek civil marriage. He complained that Israelis must pay for a plane ticket, a hotel visit and a marriage license. He asked in his bill that the government refund them.

Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) said that the government opposes the bill. Erdan said that when Horowitz asks that people who for idealistic reasons don’t want to marry religiously and prefer a civil union also be included, he finds it hard to swallow.

MK Horowitz attacked the religious and called on everyone to get married outside of Israel.

The bill was defeated 4-31.

Language Bill/Motion

MK Eldad (N.U.) informed the plenum that during the British mandate the three official languages in Israel were English, Arabic and Hebrew. He stated that in 1948 English was taken off the list and only Arabic and Hebrew remained. He noted that shortly after it was decided there would not be any official languages. He claimed that not having Hebrew as the official language of Israel is a violation of the Declaration of Independence. He said he is willing to turn the bill into a motion in order to start the discussions on the issue in the committee and gather more support.

Minister Nahari (Shas) said the government objects to the bill but supports it as a motion.

The motion passed 22-2 and was sent to the Justice Committee.