Monday’s session lasted about six hours and forty-five minutes. Seven bills were discussed. Four bills became law after passing their third readings, and three bills were advanced after passing their first readings. The long day was highlighted by two of the bills advanced. The first bill would fine those who boycott Israel financially, culturally or academically. The second bill would revoke Israeli citizenship of terrorists and those who spy for the enemy. Both bills were debated in a heated environment by the right and left.
- Kadima’s no-confidence motion titled ‘Netanyahu’s tax burden causes the collapse of the middle and lower classes’ was defeated 42-52 with 26 MKs not present.
- Labor and Meretz’s joint no-confidence motion titled ‘The ongoing failure of handling firefighting in Israel, even after the disaster’ was defeated 42-52 with 26 MKs not present.
- The three Israeli-Arab parties’ joint no-confidence motion titled ‘The discriminatory policies of the government toward the Arab sector in all areas leading to serious consequences during this time of rapid changes occurring in the region’ was defeated 32-57 with 31 MKs not present.
- Three new government orders on customs tariffs and purchase tax on goods were passed 45-3, 47-2 and 49-0.
Amendment to the Companies Bill
Law, Constitution and Justice Committee Chairman Rotem (Y.B.) explained that the amendment would add several regulations to the authority of external board members in public companies, including their rights and obligations. Rotem called it a very important bill that will reform all stock market traded companies and bring them up to speed with the rest of the western countries.
The bill passed its second reading 39-1. Minister Begin (Likud) announced he had voted against the bill by mistake. Speaker Rivlin refused to change his vote.
The bill passed its third reading 35-0.
Amendment to the Real-Estate Property Tax Bill
Funds Committee Chairman Gafni (U.T.J.) explained that the amendment would force those who purchase a house to register and give a report on their new property and pay the real-estate tax. He stated that included in the bill is an updated list of the tax levels based on the size of the property, as well as an updated list on fines for not registering and reporting a new property.
The bill passed its second reading 28-0.
The bill passed its third reading 27-0.
Amendment to the Parks, Nature Reserves, National Sites and Monuments Bill
Interior and Environment Chairman Azoulay (Shas) explained that the amendment would grant the reimbursement of expenses to members of the Parks Natural Reserves and National Sites Assembly from the Environment Ministry budget, or in other words the taxpayers pocket.
The bill passed its second reading 37-0-1.
The bill passed its third reading 35-0-1.
Prevention of Harming Israel through Boycotts Bill
MK Elkin (Likud) explained that the amendment would define as a crime the financial, cultural or academic boycott of Israel either by a person or a group of people and require those who violate that crime to present financial compensation towards the Israeli citizens or Israeli companies that were harmed as a result of that boycott. He noted that in certain situations the court may ask the boycotters to pay a higher sum than the damage of the boycotts, and in other cases the court may determine a minimum sum if the company boycotted cannot prove how much money they lost as a result of the boycott. He added that the final section of the bill determines that an Israeli private company that boycotts Israel or exempts Judea and Samaria intentionally will be prohibited from receiving any government contracts. He expressed hope that this bill will send a message that Israelis boycotting Israel is not acceptable. He concluded by surprising the MKs present with the information that this bill is almost identical to the current law in the United States, with the exclusion that the punishment in America for these crimes is a five-year jail sentence. He revealed that the United Kingdom has a similar law. This resulted in heckling from MK Oron. Elkin responded that it is about time that Israel stops being the suckers of the world and called on the MKs, especially his Kadima co-sponsors who have caught cold feet, to support the bill.
MK Itzik (Kadima) said that although she supported the bill in the preliminary reading, she wouldn’t vote for or against the bill in this reading. She said that she was disappointed about the changes in the bill that were made in the committee and surprised that the bill is up for a first reading before determining the definition of boycott.
MK Ariel (N.U.) said that he supports the bill. He asked MK Elkin if included in the bill will be those who are boycotting building in Ariel. He asked Deputy Minister Ayalon (Y.B.) if included in this bill will be those who are boycotting building homes for those evacuated from Gush Katif in Ariel. He asked MK Michaeli (Shas) if included in the bill will be those who are boycotting building for the Haredi community in Beitar Ilit. He asked MK Rotem (Y.B.) if included in the bill will be those who are boycotting building in Efrat. He concluded by stating that the Likud is a lost cause and they should go home, because they have failed their voters. He was heckled by MK Oron.
MK Swaid (Hadash) opposed the bill that he said is meant to protect the conquering and occupation of the territories. He said that America doesn’t commit as many war crimes as Israel, and therefore the American law doesn’t make sense here in Israel. He called this bill a witch hunt that violates freedom of expression. He called it a dangerous bill from a dangerous extremist government. He concluded it by calling the bill racist and condemning it.
MK Khenin (Hadash) said that he supports every word that his predecessor said. He spoke out against the fact that the bill protects the settlements and products from settlements. He called on the public not to buy any products from the settlements. He stated that there is a difference between boycotting Israel and boycotting the settlements, and this bill misses that point entirely. He noted this bill is aimed directly at silencing Israeli organizations such as Gush Shalom that have lists online of all products produced in the settlements and calls for boycotting that list. He concluded by stating that a country that harms the rights of its minority is not a true democracy.
MK Agbaria (Hadash) called the bill a settler hallucinatory bill. He noted that Palestinian stores sell Israeli products but not settler products. He called the settlements illegal settlements on illegal land. He called the government extremist. He said that the whole world isn’t against Israel, they are just against the settlements, referring to the United Nations vote in which all of the countries except the United States condemned the settlements.
MK Zahalka (Balad) stated that this bill violates freedom of expression. He stressed this bill will not prevent people from boycotting Israel and it will only prevent them from publicizing the boycott. He stated that this bill is aimed against the Arabs and the Jewish left. He concluded by calling a boycott on Israeli products and by calling MK Elkin a dwarf.
MK Zoabi (Balad) quoted the BBC poll that places Israel as the least popular country in the world for the sixth straight year. She called the bill and the government racist. She said that it is Israel’s policy that results in the punishment of boycotts. She suggested that if Israel stops killing Palestinians, the boycotts might stop. She was heckled in response. She concluded by slamming the government’s policy of demolishing Arab homes.
MK Ganaim (R.T.) stated that he understands from the bill that whoever doesn’t accept Israel’s control on Judea and Samaria must be punished. He called it an outrage and blasted Israel’s attempt to prevent those who oppose the settlements and Israel’s policy of occupying territory from doing so.
MK El-Sana (R.T.) said the bill is an attempt to boycott the boycotters. He stated that the nations of the world will not accept the legitimacy of the occupation and this bill will not change anything. He suggested that Israel boycott Turkey and Iran and see how that goes. He warned that prohibiting passive measures of boycotting will lead to citizens joining terrorist organizations and carrying out attacks against Israelis.
MK Katzeleh (N.U.) stated that boycotting is a negative tactic and stressed he is opposed to boycotting Jews and Arabs alike. He noted that many Palestinians work in the Jewish settlements and industrial areas of Judea and Samaria. He praised them and their work. He went on to blast the Likud for the building freeze in Judea and Samaria. He concluded by expressing his support for the bill.
MK Tibi (R.T.) slammed Israelis for boycotting Turkey then turning around and complaining when someone boycotts them. He warned this bill will cause complications overseas and that is why the foreign ministry is opposing the bill. He noted the Israeli boycott of athletes and celebrities who support Palestinians. He called on the public to keep up the good work of boycotting Israeli products.
MK Oron (Meretz) called the bill a cowardly hypocritical bill. He said boycotting is a kosher and legitimate way of protesting against something. He warned that the Americans don’t want to see us pass the bill into law. He asked why the right is so paranoid and asked what it is they are afraid of.
MK Eldad (N.U.) noted that those who wish to boycott Israel are those who hate Israel, the enemies of Israel. He stated that among us are the loyal messengers of those enemies who are twisted hypocrites and they are poking holes out of the barrel of water from which they drink. He stressed this bill puts a limit to their Arab fascism against buying products from Jews. He wondered if the previous speakers really believed that freedom of expression applies to every single bill they wish to selectively oppose. He revealed that he is proud of the bill, despite the watered down version, and expressed hope that it will be strengthened before it comes up for its next reading. He concluded by praising the clause prohibiting government contracts for those companies that boycott.
MK Schneller (Kadima) called the boycott on Israel a mission to delegitimize Israel, and slammed those who are hiding behind the settlements as the true issue. He stressed that the boycott is on all of Israel, not the settlements, and asked where the patriots are. He called on all the true patriots to support the bill. He stressed that the issue of settlements is for negotiations and not for boycotting. He called on those who oppose the bill to support their country and support the bill. He called on Elkin to find a consensus with those who oppose the bill.
MK Levin (Likud) called this version of the bill a moderate one. He stated that someone who boycotts their own country deserves jail time, not a fine. He asked how MKs who are paid by the taxpayers of Israel can call from this podium to boycott Israel. He called those MKs pathetic. He said that today we prove that we are no longer suckers by advancing the bill. He warned those who opposed the bill that one day they will have to choose if they are Israelis or Palestinians and stressed that it is impossible to be both.
MK Akunis (Likud) called this bill a just, moral, fair, nationalistic and measured bill. He asked how those who claim this bill is not democratic can do so if America and Britain have the same law. He noted that sometimes the principle of defensive democracy is called for, and this is one of those times. He noted that several MKs have called this bill undemocratic and stressed freedom of expression without looking at the reasons behind the proposal of the bill. He stated that those who oppose this bill risk putting several thousand Arabs out of work in the Barkan industrial area alone, and tens of thousands throughout all of Judea and Samaria. He added that boycotting Jews is how the holocaust in Europe started. He called those who oppose the bill murderers of democracy and warned that Israel will use all of the legitimate tools of democracy to fight them and win.
MK Abesadze (Kadima) said this bill isn’t just, moral, fair, nationalistic or measured. She called herself a patriot who is against the McCarthyism of this extreme right settler government. She warned this bill will encourage Israelis to boycott the west, the Arabs, the left, and eventually even the right that isn’t extremist enough because they oppose this bill. She asked if Netanyahu, by bringing a peace treaty to Israelis, will be boycotting Israel and be considered a criminal.
MK Zeev (Shas) asked why there are those who support animal rights more than Israeli rights. He asked how people could boycott their own country. He slammed all of those who boycott Israel, such as the United Arab League. He warned that the Palestinian immigration to England will cause Islamic Jihad in 15 years in London. He blasted those who oppose the bill as those who are trying to use democracy against Israel. He condemned those who started boycotting Israel after several soldiers were killed in operation defensive shield in 2002.
MK Cabel (Labor) said that we have a country and shouldn’t worry about those who wish to boycott us. He blasted the original version of the bill that was passed in the preliminary reading, and said that although this version is more moderate, it isn’t moderate enough. He revealed that he doesn’t purchase products from the settlements, so he won’t vote for a bill that would turn him into a criminal. He stated that if the bill is changed to separate a boycott of Israel from a boycott of the conquered settlements in occupied territory, he would vote for it. He warned this bill would critically harm the democratic legitimacy of boycotting settlements.
Deputy Minister Kara (Likud) expressed his support for the bill and praised it. He noted that there is no reason for boycotting Israel, when even Syria purchases Israeli-grown oranges.
Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) expressed government support for the bill. He stressed there will be changes to the bill before it is brought up for its second reading. He said in the committee the MKs will find a balance between freedom of expression and defensive democracy.
The bill passed its first reading 32-12 and was sent to the Justice Committee.
MK El-Sana voted from MK Eichler’s (U.T.J.) seat by mistake. Deputy Speaker Tibi chose to keep the vote as it was and called that vote kosher.
Amendment to the Citizenship Bill
Law, Constitution and Justice Committee Chairman Rotem explained that the amendment would allow the Interior Minister to revoke citizenship if the court convicts a citizen of the following offenses: terrorism, war crimes, aiding and abetting the enemy during war-time, serving in an enemy army, spying against Israel and other offenses along the same lines. He noted international guidelines that state that if a citizen is not loyal to his country, that country may revoke the citizenship of that person. He stressed that under the bill, a person will be stripped of his citizenship but granted the status of a permanent resident, so he won’t be deported. He stated that this is a democratic bill that is law in most western countries. He quoted from the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
MK Swaid asked why Rotem is selectively choosing to adopt this international convention and not the international convention against the occupation of the territories. He asked what good it is to revoke the citizenship of a person who receives a long jail sentence for spying against the State. He spoke out against the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and called it anti-democratic and a violation of the basic right of citizenship that is a right, not a privilege.
MK Zoabi quoted the United States Supreme Court decision that revoking citizenship is worse than execution. She assumed she was speaking to deaf ears because Arabs are enemies and the next bill will call on the courts to execute Arabs. She stated that human rights are considered illegal by this current Knesset. She warned that the Arab citizens are not Zionists and therefore it is almost a matter of time before all of their citizenships are revoked with a bulldozer. She called this a dangerous bill that turns citizenship into a political tool of intimidation. She stated that the Jewish MKs believe that all Arab citizens are threats that must be dealt with.
MK El-Sana stated that in the Jews’ eyes the Arabs don’t deserve their citizenship, and therefore there is no call to oppose this bill. He said that the Arabs were here in this land a long time before the Jews and will be here a long time after the Jews. MK Levin heckled him. El-Sana said that taking away citizenship is worse than cutting off a person’s arm. He called this punishment excessive, since taking rights away from a man in jail is pointless. He stated that the new criminal offenses are all political crimes. He concluded by calling the bill anti-democratic and warned that the Supreme Court will overrule it.
MK Oron said he never heard of this international accord and he opposes the bill. He warned this bill is against Arabs, since slain Prime Minister Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, is not included in this bill. He asked why spying is worse than murder or rape.
MK Zeev warned that in every generation there is an Amalek that wants to destroy us and it is our destiny to defeat Amalek. He noted that any spy convicted should be able to get a citizenship with an enemy State of Israel after his Israeli citizenship is revoked. He slammed the clause that doesn’t call for the deportation of spies and terrorists after their citizenship is revoked. He called on Israel to call the bluff of those who pretend to be loyal to the State.
MK Levin stated that citizenship is a privilege not a right. He asked if the Arab MKs would prefer to move to Palestine after a state is created. When they didn’t answer, he answered for them that it seems they will keep their Israeli citizenship and stay inside Israel. He said there is a direct connection between the offenses listed on the international accord and the loyalty of a citizen to his country. He concluded by calling it a good bill and a fair bill that is in the right place in a Jewish democratic state.
National Infrastructure Minister Landau (Y.B.) responded to MK Oron that Yigal Amir should be executed. He added that this is a country for Jews and not for those who wish to attack Jews. He asked the Balad MKs why they want to be citizens of Israel if they are so busy condemning and boycotting it. MK Zahalka heckled in response, resulting in Landau choosing to express government support for the bill and step down from the podium.
The bill passed its first reading 26-12 and was sent to the Interior Committee.
Amendment to the Career Service in the Israel Defense Forces Bill
Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Chairman Katz (Likud) explained that the amendment would ensure that retired career soldiers would not receive a reduction in their pensions if they choose to work as an employee in the government’s various defense departments.
The bill passed its second reading 18-0.
The bill passed its third reading 18-0.
MK Schneller thanked the Knesset for approving his bill, especially Chairman Katz. He thanked all of the retired army soldiers who choose to work in Israel instead of taking more lucrative offers overseas.
Amendment to the Israel Economic Recovery – Achieve Budget Targets for the Economic Policy for the Fiscal Years 2003 and 2004 Bill
Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Chairman Katz explained that the amendment would lift the restriction of a levy for employing a foreign worker from New Zealand. He explained that this bill needs to pass in order for Israel to live up to a mutual agreement that was signed with New Zealand.
The bill passed its first reading 12-0 and was sent to the Labor Committee.