Last Wednesday’s session lasted about five hours. Eleven bills were discussed. Five bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, two bills were pulled in order to avoid defeat and four bills were defeated. The bills advanced dealt with alcoholic beverage recycling labels, the considerations for releasing mentally ill patients, adding the army’s chief rabbi to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Council and recognizing Jerusalem as a priority “A” area.

 

Non-Bills Summary

  • Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) and Culture and Sports Minister Livnat (Likud) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.
  • MK Rotem announced the House Committee’s decisions about which disputed bills would be discussed in which committees.
  • A motion on the Government exempting haredim from the army was discussed by 14 MKs. The opposition MKs’ proposals on the motion were defeated 10-29, 11-26-2 and 11-29. The coalition proposal was accepted 24-10.
  • Two other motions were discussed. Two Shas MKs discussed Minister Yishai’s lynching by Ahuva Tomer’s life partner. That motion was not voted on. Five MKs discussed the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel; the motion was defeated 1-5.

 

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Compensation on Recycling Beverage Containers Bill

MK Vaknin (Shas) explained that his amendment is a technical change that would delay the increase of the recycling refund of alcoholic beverages from 25 agurot to 30 agurot for labels that were printed before the bill passed and that would give the companies an extra six months to sell their merchandise at the 25 agurot rate.

Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) expressed government support and praised the bill.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) objected to the bill and said that the companies shouldn’t get an extra six months to rip off the public. He attacked the companies for refusing to include all bottles in the recycling refund bill. He noted that when the bill passed in April no one thought they would ask for more extensions. Horowitz pondered if this would be the last extension.

MK Vaknin said that Horowitz didn’t understand the bill. He explained that no matter what the public will receive 30 agurot per bottle. He informed the technical change is that the label may remain with a 25 agurot symbol for another six months. He said there is no reason to force the companies to waste money on changing the labels.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 32-2 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment to the Treatment of Mental Patients Bill

MK Regev (Likud) explained that her amendment would make stricter the considerations for the release of mentally ill patients who are hospitalized because of violent acts and those who have been committed as mentally ill patients by a court order sentence. She hoped that this bill would prevent violent mentally ill people from attacking others.

Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 44-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.

Amendment to the Elections Bill

MK Tiviaev (Kadima) explained that his amendment would prevent election fraud by printing a barcode on each voting slip. He quoted Churchill, who said that democracy is not perfect, but it is the best way to govern. Tiviaev suggested that the act of giving people their voting slips before they show up to the polls reminds him of a dictatorship. He slammed Yisrael Beitenu and Shas for finding the cracks in the Israeli system and suggested that they are the parties that are trying to defeat this bill.

Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) said that he and the government object to the bill. He said that the assumption behind the bill insults the intelligence of the voters.

MK Tiviaev said that we need order to protect our democracy. He charged that the voting fraud of giving people their voting slips before they vote is widespread and illegal. He said that he is open to other solutions, but the voting fraud must be abolished.

The bill was defeated 27-38.

Amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance Bill

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained that his amendment would give senior citizens an exemption from paying capital gains tax and tax on provident funds. He said that the current system is simply highway robbery of the elderly. He told stories of people who lost money in the stock market because they felt the banks were not giving them enough interest. He said that today no one takes a provident fund because it is no longer financially worthwhile and instead are keeping their money in dollars overseas.

Finance Minister Steinitz (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill. He explained that the government budgets 10 billion NIS for provident funds and that it is not a sin to tax them a little. He said that he is willing to try and meet Sheetrit halfway on the exemption from capital gains tax and asked Sheetrit to postpone the bill for three months so they can discuss it further.

MK Sheetrit agreed to delay the vote for three months.

Amendment to the National Health Insurance Bill

MK Agbaria (Hadash) explained that his amendment would entitle every citizen to vaccinations against all infectious diseases at no charge. He noted that the payment expected for chicken pox shots is very high and that results in 60-70% of the population not getting vaccinated.

Transportation Minister Katz noted that all children born after January 1, 2007, have been vaccinated for most infectious diseases at no charge and that it is a felony to not receive those vaccinations. He noted that other vaccinations are offered at a very low cost. He stated that there is no budget to vaccinate those who are older.

MK Agbaria complained that the government won’t even vaccinate chicken pox. He asked to turn the bill into a motion and discuss the matter in the Health Committee. His request was rejected.

The bill was defeated 20-39.

Amendment to the Prohibition of Kosher Fraud Bill

MK Horowitz stated that he is against religion, Judaism, kashrut and the religious ministry. He explained that his amendment would require supervision and control the prices on kosher certificates. He said that there is a monopoly that entitles the kashrut companies to constantly raise their prices for certificates. He said that he hates kashrut but feels he needs to present this bill for store owners who are being robbed. He also asked that the kosher supervising companies not be allowed to require store owners to buy kosher products that are more expensive.

Religious Affairs Minister Margi (Shas) said that the bill was presented without doing homework. He explained that currently the Finance Committee supervises the kosher certificates. He stated that because there is Knesset supervision and control of the prices on kosher certificates, there is no reason to pass the bill.

MK Horowitz explained that his amendment would allow the chief rabbi to revoke kosher certificates and place fines on high prices. He stated that experts came up with this bill and that the minister doesn’t understand his bill.

The bill was defeated 12-40.

Amendment to the Water and Sewage Bill

MK Tirosh (Kadima) explained that her amendment would provide an exemption to the VAT on the water rates. She said that raising the water taxes is one thing but double taxation through the VAT is another. She screamed at Netanyahu for not doing anything. She warned that people will start protesting soon and that it might spin out of control. Likud ministers heckled her as she raised her voice. Speaker Rivlin suggested Tirosh finish her speech, and she did.

MK Tirosh decided to pull her bill and vote on it at a later date.

Estate Tax Bill

MK Solodkin (Kadima) explained that the estate tax is too high for the lower and middle classes and that the estate tax for higher-income classes is too low. She informed that her amendment would fix that. She blasted the government for regressive indirect taxes that hurt the middle class when they could raise indirect taxes that would hurt the rich, such as the estate tax. She said that the country must return to socialism and abandon its capitalistic tendencies. She warned that Israel is going towards early-20th century Russia and Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.

Environment Minister Erdan said that Solodkin is exaggerating in her predictions. He expressed government opposition to the bill. He noted that Solodkin is asking for double taxation because the person who earned the money paid income tax on it. He added that many elderly rich people make aliya to Israel because of its low estate taxes and Israel is not interested in discouraging this practice.

The bill was defeated 8-28.

Amendment to the Courts Bill

MK Shai (Kadima) explained that his amendment would place a limitation on the validity of gag orders. He stated that gag orders are given out excessively, over one hundred annually, and there is no expiration date on them. He said that it is a violation of freedom of the press and the right of the public to know. He noted that the situation today is that the foreign media covers the stories that have a gag order on them and that Israelis receive the news from the world’s bloggers instead of from its own press. He said that we should require those who request a gag order to have a judge extend it every so often. He stated that there are gag orders on current investigations that have been going on for years.

Environment Minister Erdan said that asking a judge to hear a gag order extension every two weeks is excessive and therefore the government is against the bill. He said that what Shai is asking for is a waste of time and money. Erdan explained that the part of the bill that entitles a journalist to fast-track an appeal on a gag order is accepted by the government. He said that the government will only support this part of the bill and will oppose the rest of it. He blasted Shai for trying to waste police manpower that barely has enough resources to enforce the law on a trip to the courts every week. He also slammed Shai for putting limitations on court decisions.

MK Shai agreed to only advance the part of the bill that the government supports. He went on to criticize Erdan and the Likud.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 32-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Amendment to the Jerusalem – Israel’s Capital Bill

MK Ariel (N.U.) praised Jerusalem Mayor Barkat for attending this important session to support this very important bill. He stated that 40 MKs have agreed to co-sponsor his bill. He offered his condolences to MK Elkin (Likud), whose father passed away this week. Ariel explained that his amendment would require the government to give a priority to Jerusalem through economic aspects. He informed that the bill requires the government to recognize Jerusalem as a priority “A” area in terms of building, housing, industry and commerce. He noted that the construction freeze on eastern Jerusalem is raising the prices of housing nationally, made worse by the building freeze in Judea and Samaria which has created the housing shortage. He blasted the government for opposing this bill and questioned where their priorities are. He warned that more people are leaving Jerusalem than moving to Jerusalem and that it must raise a red flag. He called on the government to reconsider and vote for the bill.

Environment Minister Erdan said that he agreed with MK Ariel that Jerusalem should be the government’s top priority. He explained that he supports the bill and the government does as well. He said he would not comment on the rest of Ariel’s words.

MK Oron (Meretz) opposed the bill. He said that he doesn’t want to enter the “who loves Jerusalem more” contest, because he knows he will lose. He confessed he wants to see Jerusalem divided now and for future generations. He charged that the government doesn’t really want this bill to pass and will kill it in the committee. He doubted that the government will give Jerusalem the NIS 400 million budget required by the bill. He blasted the current NIS 270 million budget for Jerusalem and says that it comes at the expense of the education and health budgets. He blasted former Meretz Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Pepe for supporting this bill.

MK Ariel said that Oron didn’t read or didn’t understand the bill. He said that the bill will give money to Jerusalem indirectly, not directly, and that is the way MKs get things done.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 39-7 and was sent to the House Committee to determine if the Finance or Funds Committee will discuss the bill further.

Amendment to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel Bill

MK Ariel explained that his amendment would add the army chief rabbi to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Council. Speaker Rivlin informed the MKs that the government supports the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 20-2 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

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