Monday’s session lasted about five hours. Four bills were discussed. Two bills were advanced after passing their first readings and two bills became law after passing their third readings. The highlight bill of the day was the Azmi Bishara Bill, which revokes the former Balad party leader’s Knesset pension because he fled the country after being charged with treason. The government survived three no-confidence motions, and a special session was held in memory of former Speaker Dov Shilansky.

Non-Bills Summary

  • Kadima’s no-confidence motion titled ‘Two Years after Elections: Israel’s citizens are collapsing under the duress of the Netanyahu government’s tax decrees’ was defeated 38-56 with 26 MKs not present.
  • Labor and Meretz’s joint no-confidence motion titled ‘The wave of increasing prices in the market that hurts the poor sectors in the economy, that are deepening the social polarization tax policies, which benefit the few and grazes the rest’ was defeated 38-56 with 26 MKs not present.
  • The three Israeli-Arab parties’ joint no-confidence motion titled ‘The rise in prices of basic commodities that hurts vulnerable sections of the population, particularly the Arab communities in the periphery’ was defeated 34-57 with 29 MKs not present.
  • A special session was held in memory of the 12th Knesset’s Speaker Dov Shilansky who passed away 30 days earlier. Speaker Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Opposition Leader Livni (Kadima) and Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) spoke.
  • Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) presented the government announcement on the transfer of certain powers from Finance Minister Steinitz (Likud) to Justice Minister Neeman in order to avoid a conflict of interest. It was accepted 25-0 with 2 MKS abstaining.
  • House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced which disputed bills would be discussed in which committees. He also announced that MK Eichler (U.T.J.) will replace MK Moses (U.T.J.), who was recently promoted to deputy education minister, in the House, Finance and Education-Culture-Sport committees as well as in two sub-committees.

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Parks, Nature Reserves, National Sites and Monuments Bill

Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) explained the amendment would provide the reimbursement of expenses to the Parks, Nature Reserves, National Sites and Monuments Authority’s assembly members. He noted that there are over one thousand workers in the authority and it is not respectable for the assembly members of this important authority to have to pay their expenses out of their own pocket.

MK Eichler (U.T.J.) said that the authority is important, but blasted the authority for not appointing at least one ultra-orthodox assembly member. He also questioned if this bill was necessary as it places an additional tax burden on the public.

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

Amendment to the National Insurance Bill

Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Chairman Katz (Likud) explained the amendment would extend a trial run of presenting those who are entitled to government funds with those funds directly without a middleman for an additional two years.

The bill passed its second reading 9-0.

The bill passed its third reading 13-0.

Amendment to the Banking Bill

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) explained the amendment would award licensing of additional credit cards companies in Israel. He added that the bill would prohibit credit card companies from charging businesses for every transaction that involves the clearing of a credit or a debit card on a machine or cash register.

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) confessed he didn’t understand the bill. He went on to blast the credit card companies and the cellular phone companies and called them thieves. He complained that the cellular companies charge him for eight phone lines when he only uses two. He called on the public to stop using credit cards and to take money out of the bank and pay for everything in cash. He warned that credit cards and purchases in payments bring poverty.

The bill passed its first reading 19-0, and the House Committee will decide which committee will discuss it further.

Denial of payments to MKs and former MKs who have committed offenses against the State of Israel Bill

House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) explained that the amendment puts an end to Azmi Bishara’s pension. He announced that the main sponsor of the bill, Yisrael Hasson (Kadima), asked that the bill be brought up for a vote even though he is overseas. Levin told Zahalka and Tibi that Israel is no longer a sucker and suggested they distance themselves from the traitor Bishara. He reminded the coalition members that the government and all of its ministers supports this bill. He stated that it is absurd that someone who spied for Lebanon during the last war could receive a monthly pension from the State of Israel. He said that this bill sends a message to those who wish to use democracy while they support terrorism. He added that the bill applies only to crimes committed while an MK and only crimes that carry a punishment of ten years or more. He noted that after the MK is deceased, the pension would be reinstituted for the MK’s family. He stressed the point of the bill is to prevent the tax payers from taking money out of their pockets every month for Bishara’s pension. He concluded that not one country would tolerate a situation like this and not one country would allow this situation to go on for five years unanswered. He called on the MKs to defeat all of the objections.

MK Barakeh (Hadash) blasted the police detectives and investigators who bugged Bishara’s MK office. He asked if Bishara really spied against Israel, why wouldn’t Israel prevent him from leaving the country? He called the charges against Bishara politically motivated and called this bill a political bill that has been tailored carefully so it would affect only one man. He blasted the logic behind the legislative body of government acting as the executive and judicial branches in this bill. He said that it is dangerous for democracy when the lawmaker becomes the judge and the executioner. He called those who support the bill thieves who wish to take away a pension that a man earned. He stressed that this bill will not kill or damage Bishara and his legacy, but it will damage the morality of Israel’s democary. He concluded by blasting the opposition members who support the bill and noted that the bill was sponsored by an oppostion member.

MK Oron (Meretz) opposed the bill on the grounds that this bill violates the separation of the branches of government. He asked why every convicted felon, included one who killed his four children still receives a pension, but Bishara, who never went through a trial, is not entitled to one. He said that a pension is a democratic right that should not be taken away in any instance or circumstance. He stressed that there are many Jews who support his view on the bill and this is not a bill that pits Jews against Arabs.

MK Zahalka (Balad) revealed that Bishara is now president of an Arab research think tank and that he doesn’t need his pension money. He stated the problem with the bill is in principle and that it is a personal bill against one person. He stressed this bill proves that there is no separation of powers in the Israeli government and that Arabs are guilty until proven innocent and not the other way around. He said he doesn’t understand how a lawmaker can act as the prosecution and the judge. He said that a pension is private property and it is immoral to prevent one from receiving it, no matter what crime he committed. He asked why a pension can be taken from an MK but not from a judge or a college professor. He slammed the bill and called it political. He called supporters of the bill fascists. He called Bishara an innocent intellectual. He noted that Bishara is still quoted today in the Israeli education and civics books and is a great man. He concluded by saying that the bill is an embarrassment.

MK Zoabi (Balad) tried to start her speech but MK Regev (Likud) heckled her for a few minutes. Deputy Speaker Avraham Balila (Kadima) called Regev to order twice and almost threw her out. After order to the room was restored, Zoabi called the deputy speaker a man, which did not go over well. Zoabi went on to give her speech supporting Bishara and blasted the politically motivated bill. Pandemonium broke out between the coalition MKs and Arab MKs several times throughout Zoabi’s speech and Deputy Speaker Avraham Balila did her best to keep the room somewhat quiet. Zoabi noted this was not a Yisrael Beitenu or National Union bill, but a Kadima bill. She suggested the Israeli government assassinate Bishara, and that it might be less of a mess than passing this bill. Screaming and shouting followed for several minutes. Zoabi said this bill is an attempt to silence the minority opinion, and she warned that it will only motivate them. When Zoabi started to fuel the fire of those heckling her, Deputy Speaker Avraham Balila asked her to step down from the podium. Zoabi concluded that the bill is racist and stepped down.

MK Tibi (R.T.) asked why Jewish former MK Kahane received a pension before he was assassinated but Arab former MK Bishara is not entitled to receive one. MKs Zeev and Regev led the heckling of Tibi’s decision to link the two former MKs in the same sentence. Tibi asked why former Prime Minister Rabin’s murderer, Yigal Amir, can receive a pension, but Bishara, who never saw a judge, cannot. Tibi went on to attack the coalition MKs who preach hate towards the Arab public and attack the leftist Jews’ funds. He called most of the MKs fascists. Tibi attacked Deputy Speaker Avraham Balila for not defending him against the MKs who were calling him a murderer. She responded by suggesting he complain to the ethics committee.

MK El-Sana (R.T.) tried to begin his speech, but the tension in the room made it impossible to speak as shouting from both sides intensified and the name calling began. Speaker Avraham Balila removed MK Regev from the plenum and the room briefly became silent. El-Sana said that Bishara won with this bill because it forced the right to show its ugly face, their hypocrisy and lack of morality. He charged those supporting the bill that they have lowered Israel even beneath the dead sea. This remark resulted in more screaming and shouting. El-Sana called those who support the bills thieves and said they are the same people who support settlers stealing Palestinian land. He called this bill a targeted killing of what is left of Israel’s democarcy. He called those supporting the bill racists, hypocrites, immoral, traitors and stark-mad. The room erupted in more screaming and shouting. El-Sana continued by warning that taking away someone’s pension is retroactive punishment and charged that those supporting the bill are in favor of murderers as long as they are Jewish. Deputy Speaker Avraham Balila asked El-Sana to step down. El-Sana concluded that the ugly face of Israel’s democracy is shown in those who support the bill.

MK Zeev (Shas) quoted the prophet Jeremiah, “Israel’s enemies will unify them”. Zeev called Bishara, the former leader of Balad, an enemy of the State of Israel, a traitor and a liar. He called the bill democratic and reminded the Arabs that Israel doesn’t hang traitors in the town square and he was not deported. Rather, Bishara chose to run away. Zeev noted that a decade ago the head of the Shabak warned that Bishara was a traitor and Israel chose to be a suicidal democracy that ignores such warnings. He warned that Balad MK Zoabi would also betray the State of Israel, beyond her attendance on the flotilla. He blasted the Balad party and asked that they be exempt from the oath they take when they are sworn in to be MKs, since obviously they are committing perjury. He attacked Oron and his morals. He reminded Oron that Bishara was on the phone with the Hezbollah in Lebanon from his Knesset office with a map, directing where the missiles should hit, either more to the left or more to the right, in order to maximize Israeli casualties and fatalities. He said that he would rather be a “thief” than a murderer. He blasted Tibi for comparing Kahane, who was assassinated by Tibi’s friends, to Bishara, who was responsible for countless deaths during the 2006 Lebanon war. Pandemonium broke out as shouting from both sides became deafening. Zeev stressed that Bishara doesn’t deserve a pension because he didn’t fufill his job as an MK, since he was a traitor working for a different government. He charged that Bishara stole the pension he is receiving and suggested one who steals from a thief is exempt from punishment.

The objections on the bill were defeated 10-33 and 11-34.

The rest of the objections were withdrawn.

The bills paragraphs passed their second readings 34-11, 34-11 and 36-11.

The bill passed its third reading 36-11, with a whopping 73 MKs not present for the vote.

House Committee Chairman Levin thanked everyone who helped advance the bill and the MKs who voted for it.

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