Last Wednesday’s session lasted about eight hours. Ten bills were discussed. Four bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, five were defeated and one was turned into a motion in order to avoid defeat. The highlight bill of the day was one that would prohibit discrimination based on a citizen’s place of residence. Two bills that would raise the permitted minimum age for marriage from 17 to 18 were defeated.

Non-Bills Summary

  • Home-front Defense Minister Vilnai (Independence), Culture and Sport Minister Livnat (Likud) and Justice Minister Neeman answered urgent queries.
  • Speaker Rivlin welcomed Kenya’s Speaker of the House with a warm speech.
  • Six of the nine motions discussed passed by the votes 9-7, 4-3, 9-0, 19-0, 8-0 and 3-0. The other three motions were not voted on.
  • Coalition Chairman Elkin (Likud) announced the House Committee’s decision on which committees will discuss which disputed bills.
  • Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) and Housing and Construction Minister Atias (Shas) answered queries.

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Establishing Museums and Canceling Restrictions on the Boards of the Centers that are in Commemoration of the Memory of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin Bill

MK Levin (Likud) explained that his amendment would allow members of the board in both centers to serve more than one term in their positions.

Culture and Sport Minister Livnat (Likud) expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 27-0 and was sent to the Culture Committee.

Amendment to the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry to Entertainment and Public Places Bill

MK Orbach (J.H.) explained that his amendment would add the prohibition of discrimination based on place of residence to the bill’s list of offenses. He explained that there are companies that charge extra fees for entering Judea and Samaria, as well as Israeli Arab towns.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 33-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Two Amendments to the Marriage Age Bill

MK Zoabi (Balad) explained that her amendment would raise the legal age of marriage without parental consent from 17 to 18. She called this a feminist bill that should be supported by all female MKs, especially the day after International Women’s Day. She stated that young marriages are usually forced upon these women, specifically in the Arab and Haredi populations. She asked how the government could support high school students getting married. She noted that today 25% of Arab women get married with parental consent under the age of 17. She cited statistics that 10,800 of the 13,300 minors under the age of 17 who were married were Arab. She rejected claims that minors getting married are a tradition or religious practice. She concluded by revealing that the Israeli Rabbinate supports the bill.

MK Khenin (Hadash) explained that his similar bill prohibits the marriage of minors. He blasted the current minimum age of 17 for marriage as not respectable for a modern country. He noted that in almost all western countries the minimum age for marriage is 18. He added that his bill allows a few exceptions to the rule through which 17-year-olds would be allowed to be married with court approval.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that the government is planning its own bill that includes different legal terms and wording. He agreed that the age must be raised to 18.

MK Zoabi asked that the government approve the bill in the preliminary reading and said she will attach it to the government bill when it is presented. The request was rejected.

MK Khenin asked that the government allow the two bills to be voted on at a later time, perhaps when the government brings their own bill. That request was rejected as well.

The first bill was defeated 10-39.

The second bill was defeated 8-40.

Amendment to the Israel National Toll Road Bill/Motion

MK Tibi (R.T.) explained that his amendment would grant a 50% discount for drivers who use a toll road when there is construction work on the road. He stated the point of a toll road is that it brings the driver to his destination faster, and the constant construction on route six is currently making that drive longer. He noted that in the ministerial committee of legislative affairs his bill fell by a vote of 4-6. He asked that the coalition MKs not kill a bill that was opposed by one vote. He slammed the government for supporting business mogul Leviev’s pocket and not the pockets of over a million citizens.

Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) opposed the bill on the grounds that this bill would cause the government to breach its contract with the company that runs the road. He added that in a situation where the government would breach contract the taxpayers would be forced to pay more money to compensate the company that runs the road than what the bill would save them.

MK Tibi asked if the government plans on changing the contract in a way that a compromise can be achieved.

Transportation Minister Katz suggested turning the bill into a motion in order to discuss the important matter further. MK Tibi agreed.

The motion passed 31-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment to the Value Added Tax Bill

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) explained that his amendment would grant an exemption on VAT for young couples who are purchasing their first apartment for up to NIS 1.3 million. He stated that this is an easy quick fix that will lower the price of smaller apartments by 16% instantly. He spent the rest of his time blasting Netanyahu and his building policies.

Finance Minister Steinitz (Likud) started by blasting Hasson for using the family members of the Carmel fire victims for political leverage over Netanyahu. He went on to ask Hasson why he didn’t propose this bill in the previous term when Kadima was in power. He stated that the cost of this bill is 400 million and that he is not willing to cut the education or welfare budget to pay for it. He noted that the government went up from approving 32,000 housing units last year to 40,000 units this year.

MK Hasson defended his decision to bring the family members of the Carmel fire victims to meet with Netanyahu. He explained that Netanyahu had refused to meet them otherwise. He went on to attack Steinitz for tearing apart his bill without offering a different solution for young couples who are looking to purchase their first home.

The bill was defeated 25-40.

Amendment to the Income Tax Bill

MK Tirosh (Kadima) explained that her amendment would allow citizens to receive a tax deduction for mortgage interest on apartments that are worth less than NIS 1 million. She stated that few people meet the standards needed to enjoy this deduction, but those few people who do are very poor people and need this tax break badly. She noted that Ministers Erdan, Margi and Noked were among several MKs who proposed this bill in the past, and she asked all of the bill’s former sponsors to support the bill.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that the bill will cost over NIS 100 million a year. He added that the bill doesn’t preclude rich people from buying properties worth less than NIS 1 million and receiving the deduction.

MK Tirosh called Cohen’s speech pathetic and insulting. She said all she heard was “blah, blah, blah”, and it sounded like just about every speech the government gives to oppose a bill. She said that the public isn’t stupid and will see right through it.

The bill was defeated 28-43.

Amendment to the Army Veterans Absorption Bill

MK Plesner (Kadima) explained that his amendment would include Jerusalem in the defined region assistance plans that the government offers citizens. He blasted Netanyahu for not living up to his political campaign promise of every soldier receiving their first year of university free of charge. He read off Knesset protocols of the previous time he proposed this bill with Minister Margi, Deputy Speaker Gamliel and Speaker Rivlin assuring they would support this bill if brought up again six months later if the government doesn’t implement his bill. Plesner said after six months of nothing he chose to bring up a small part of the bill that includes only Jerusalem, and even that is being opposed by the hypocrite government. He read off Netanyahu’s speech from Jerusalem Day, where he promised to pass a bill identical to the bill being proposed today. He called Netanyahu a serial liar who doesn’t care about anything and doesn’t live up to anything he says. He blasted Netanyahu for cutting Jerusalem’s budget and for freezing Jerusalem’s construction. He was told by Netanyahu’s messengers that he should wait a bit longer with the bill. He asked if anyone really believes a word Netanyahu says.

Home-front Defense Minister Vilnai (Independence) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that the government plans on proposing their own extensive bill that will be presented by Jerusalem Day of this year.

MK Plesner read off Knesset protocols of Vilnai’s false promises on several bills that Vilnai claimed the government was opposing because of extensive bills that were supposed to be presented at a later date and never were.

Speaker Rivlin interrupted Deputy Speaker Akunis (Likud) and corrected Plesner, who had quoted him out of context. Plesner responded that it doesn’t matter because he still said it.

The bill was defeated 20-33.

Amendment to the Retirement Age Bill

MK Oron (Meretz) explained his amendment would put off the automatic increase in the retirement age of women from 62 to 64 and of men from 65 to 67. His bill proposes a joint public and MK committee to discuss the issue before it takes effect in the beginning of 2012. He thanked Ministers Livnat and Noked, who helped him achieve government support for the bill. He revealed that over the past three days the government changed its mind and he lost government support.

Culture and Sport Minister Livnat got up to kill time until Steinitz returned to the room in order to avoid a vote where the government might lose.

Finance Minister Steinitz explained that he agrees to the committee but disagrees with Oron on who its members should be.

MK Haim Katz (Likud), one of the bill’s co-sponsors and chairman of the Labor Committee, said he made an agreement with MK Oron that if the bill is passed it will not be discussed for seven months in order to give the government time to pass its own version of the bill. Steinitz agreed.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 24-0 and was sent to the Labor Committee.

Amendment to the Rights of Public Housing Tenants Bill

MK Avraham Balila (Kadima) explained that her amendment would grant rights to both sides of a couple who separate and live in public housing. She stated that perhaps if the three different women who were murdered this week had rights, they would have found a way out instead of staying trapped. She thanked the government who finally came to their senses and agreed to support the bill.

Housing and Construction Minister Atias (Shas) expressed government support for the bill after he revealed that Avraham Balila agreed to bend on some of the articles of the bill and that the government will have their say in the committee.

MK Zeev (Shas) opposed the bill on the grounds that the bill puts the women’s rights over the children’s rights, something which he said is very dangerous as part of an arrangement in which the couple is separated while awaiting divorce. He also noted that, under the bill, the country will lose out financially on couples who have obligations to the government.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 25-0 with MK Zeev abstaining and was sent to the House Committee to determine which committee will discuss the bill further.