Wednesday’s session lasted five and a half hours. Ten bills were discussed. Four bills advanced after passing their preliminary readings, two bills were turned into motions to avoid defeat, one bill was pulled back and not voted on, and three bills were defeated. Among the bills advanced were one that gives affirmative action in the civil service to Israelis who served three years in the army and one that prohibits cigarette vending machines in public places.

 

Non-Bills Summary

  • Urgent queries were answered by Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) and Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.).
  • International Holocaust Remembrance Day was marked by speeches from Prime Minister Netanyahu, Opposition Leader Livni and Deputy Prime Minister Shalom (Likud). Speaker Rivlin said a few words and acknowledged the only current holocaust survivor member of Knesset, Minister Peled (Likud).
  • Three motions were discussed. A motion on the conclusions of the Turkel Commission was defeated 6-11, a motion on the Al Jazeera leaks was not voted on and a motion on expanding Route 6 southward was passed 3-0 and sent for further discussion in the Finance committee.
  • Five queries were answered at the end of the session by Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.)

 

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Treatment of Mental Patients Bill

MK Ilatov (Y.B.) explained that a court sends a mental patient to an institution but the institution decides when to release the patient, as opposed to the court. He explained that his amendment would establish a court release program for mental patients to replace the current system, in which a judge would have to approve the institution’s request to release the patient.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) expressed government support for this bill, just like the three similar amendments proposed the week before.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 18-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.

Amendment to the Civil Service Bill

MK Amar (Y.B.) blasted those who desert the army. He explained that his amendment will give an incentive to those who serve their country for three years in the military. He said this bill sends a message to those who serve and to those who don’t serve. He announced his amendment would enforce affirmative action for all civil service appointments to those who served three years in the army. The Israeli-Arab MKs heckled Amar, and Speaker Rivlin called them to order.

The government decided not to take a formal position on the bill, and no minister spoke on the subject.

MK Oron (Meretz) objected to the bill and said that the government should be taking a stand on this bill. He complained that this bill will hurt unfairly those who received an exemption from the army for just causes. He called this a bad bill that is not fair and discriminates against people. He said he was proud of those who desert the army and he calls on all of Israel’s citizens to desert the army. He added he was proud that his family did not serve in the army.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 43-16-1 and was sent to the Labor Committee.

Amendment to the National Insurance Bill

MK Yacimovich (Labor) explained that her amendment would force the national insurance to give money owed to a citizen straight to their bank account instead of going through a middle man. She proposed to try this bill as a test for a year to see its results.

Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) expressed government support for the bill. He said that the bill proposes seven cities to participate in the test and he wishes to raise that number to nine.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 46-0 and was sent to the House Committee to determine which committee should discuss the bill.

Amendment to the Limitation of Advertising and Marketing of Tobacco Products Bill

MK Ariel (N.U.) explained that his amendment would prohibit the placing of cigarette vending machines in all public places. He said that a person is allowed to smoke in the privacy of his own home, but in public places the government must fight it. He noted that many minors purchase cigarettes from vending machines and this bill will put an end to that as well.

Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) expressed government support for the bill and stressed that private companies can still use cigarette vending machines.

Speaker Rivlin revealed that he smoked for 40 years, from the age of 10 until 50. He praised the bill.

MK Ghilon (Meretz) said that as a smoker he opposes the bill, despite the known dangers of cigarettes. He said that he feels the government has no right to prohibit vending machines in public places. He said the country should stop persecuting smokers. He stressed his belief that this bill won’t stop people from smoking.

MK Ariel suggested Ghilon work with him on a bill that promotes anti-smoking education. He said that bill could go hand-and-hand with this bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 45-1 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Equal Opportunities in Residence Bill

MK Khenin (Hadash) explained that this bill would require equal opportunities to all people who wish to reside in any neighborhood they wish, regardless of age, race, sex, sexual orientation etc. He explained this bill would allow Arabs to live in Jewish-only towns. He said that his bill is in the spirit of the U.S. Supreme Court case Brown vs. the Board of Education and therefore should be accepted. He noted that his ultra-orthodox grandfather lived in Meah Shearim and while he doesn’t expect to live there, he wants to have the right to do so.

Minister Begin (Likud) said that he respects Khenin’s intentions but disagrees with the legislation. He said there is a limitation on the government’s interference in such matters. He expressed government opposition to the bill.

MK Khenin said that he appreciates Ministers Begin, Eitan and Meridor and Speaker Rivlin, who agree with him. Khenin said this is a time for action. MK Ben Ari heckled Khenin and was called to order by Speaker Rivlin. Khenin went on to attack the Rabbis’ decree against selling or renting to Arabs.

The bill was defeated 14-59-1.

Providing Water and Sewage Rate Discounts to Needy Populations Bill

MK Molla (Kadima) asked why there are discounts for city taxes but not for water bills. He demanded that needy people get discounts on their water bill and the ministry should decide who is eligible. He slammed the government for privatizing the water resources of the country.

Speaker Rivlin said that the bill will create a situation that would promote buying votes and he is against any bill that allows a minister to choose who gets a discount on an individual basis.

National Infrastructure Minister Landau (Y.B.) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that if water rates are reduced, electricity will be next, and it won’t be the last. Landau said that the government can’t eliminate all of the poor peoples’ taxes. He noted the real poor people are receiving money and free housing from the government. He corrected Molla by informing him that it was his Kadima government who privatized some of the country’s water resources last term, and it wasn’t done this term. Landau announced that the government is working on a bill that will subsidize the water taxes for certain population groups.

MK Molla told the government to stop justifying themselves by blaming the previous administration. He said that the government has had two years to fix Olmert’s flawed decisions and instead have done nothing.

The bill was defeated 29-47.

Motion/Amendment to the Securities Bill

MK Shai (Kadima) explained that his amendment would regulate reports by corporations searching for oil and natural gases in order to prevent inflated numbers in the stock market. He said that his amendment will add eleven regulations.

Finance Minister Steinitz (Likud) suggested turning the bill into a motion, given that the government authorities have already started to implement Shai’s bill to the letter.

MK Shai agreed.

The motion passed 47-0-1 and was sent to the Funds Committee.

Amendment to the Income Support Bill

MK Solodkin (Kadima) explained that her amendment would allow a “deduction rate” for those who have reached retirement age and are eligible to receive a pension under foreign law. She said that 30,000 Russians are not receiving their foreign pensions because they live in Israel and her bill will grant them their full pensions out of the Israeli budget.

Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that it will cost the country NIS 40 million annually.

The bill was defeated 24-40.

Public Authority Identification Requirement on Official Calls Bill/Motion

MK Ganem (R.T.) explained that many people do not answer calls from blocked numbers. He warned that most public authority clerks and government officials call from blocked numbers and there are people who don’t answer those very important calls. He said that, under his bill, ministries, banks, hospitals and other vital public services would have to reveal their phone numbers when calling.

Bureaucracy Minister Eitan (Likud) praised the intention of the bill but explained that the technical requirements would force all public authorities to spend a lot of money replacing their current switchboard systems. He said it is an important idea and suggested turning the bill into a motion in order to discuss overcoming the technical challenges in the committee. Eitan added that he wants to improve the governments’ service when the citizen wants to call them back and can’t find the person he is looking for.

The motion passed 15-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment to the National Insurance Bill

MK Oron (Meretz) explained that his amendment has been proposed in each of the previous four terms and has never passed. He announced his amendment would allow the partial absence from work due to the saving of a pregnancy. He said that the national insurance does not pay these pregnant women for the time they miss and his bill will entitle them to that money that they deserve. He agreed, given the government’s opposition to the bill, to pull his bill in order to avoid its defeat.

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