Archive for May, 2011

Wednesday’s session lasted about eight and a half hours. Ten bills were discussed. Six bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, three were turned into motions to avoid defeat and one was defeated. The highlight of the day was the Knesset extending the state of emergency that Israel has faced since its creation for another year. The bill that received the most buzz was one that would allow the reelection of the Chief Rabbi of Israel to multiple ten-year terms. Two bills advanced dealt with increasing those eligible for the Polio Compensation Bill, and another bill dealt with giving men sanctions for not granting a woman a divorce. The other two bills that were advanced included one that would shorten the time students have to wait to receive their degree benefits and one that would widen the eligibility criteria for businesses entitled to financial compensation from the State after being forced to relocate as a result of the disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria.

Non-Bills Summary

  • Defense Security Minister Vilnai (Independence), Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.), Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) and Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) answered urgent queries at the start of the session.
  • The recommendation of the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to renew the declared state of emergency for another year was discussed by 13 MKs and approved 28-11.
  • Seven motions were discussed and sent for further discussion to various committees by the votes 13-0, 12-0, 5-0, 6-0, 19-0, 7-0 and 6-0.
  • Deputy Education Minister Moses (U.T.J.) answered two queries at the end of the session.


Bills Summary

Amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance

MK Shemtov (Y.B.) explained that her amendment would allow college graduates to receive their academic credit and pay raise immediately after they graduate or after they complete their required internship. She stated that until now graduates would have to wait for the following tax year to receive their benefits and those who have internships sometimes wait two years.

MK Tibi (R.T.) got up to speak because the government gave up their right to give their opinion. He started blasting Netanyahu’s U.S. Congress speech and was heckled by several MKs, most notably MK Orlev (J.H.), who Tibi called an embarrassment to the Knesset. Deputy Speaker Levy-Abekasis kept order during Tibi’s three minute speech. Tibi blasted Netanyahu and his coalition partners.

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

Two Amendments to the Polio Compensation Bill

MK Pinyan (Likud) explained that his amendment would allow those who were diagnosed with polio abroad or Israelis who were diagnosed with polio before 1948 would receive the full rights and compensation as indicated in the Polio Compensation Bill. He said this bill would help about 600 polio patients who have discriminated against.

MK Khenin (Hadash) explained his similar amendment would include giving the full compensation package to all polio patients who are citizens of and living in Israel.

Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) expressed government support for both bills.

The first bill passed its preliminary reading 34-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.

The second bill passed its preliminary reading 36-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.

Amendment to the Disengagement Plan Implementation Bill

MK Elkin (Likud) explained this was the third amendment to broaden the eligibility for compensation under the bill. He announced this amendment would compensate those who lost their businesses in the disengagement.

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

The bill passed its preliminary reading 34-1 and was sent to the Funds Committee.

Motion/Amendment to the Israel National Toll Road Bill

MK Tirosh (Kadima) explained that her amendment would force the Route 6 providers to erect electronic information signs about traffic congestion in places where the driver can take an alternate route. She gave an example of such a sign that tells drivers whether they should take route 1 or route 443 based on traffic reports. She announced the bill also asks for the publication of a phone number that drivers could call and get traffic reports for Route 6. A third addition to the bill would be to exempt drivers from paying the toll fee if they were not warned that Route 6 was congested. Speaker Rivlin agreed with Tirosh and said that if someone pays for a swift service and doesn’t receive it they should not have to pay for it and should be compensated.

Science and Technology Minister Hershkowitz (J.H.) announced the bill would cost too much money but the government agrees with it in principle. He explained that the government needs to pay the difference if the Route 6 owners don’t make a set amount of money. He suggested turning the bill into a motion. Tirosh agreed.

The motion passed 43-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment to the Fuel Tax Bill

MK Molla (Kadima) explained that his amendment would increase the control and supervision over the fuel tax rate. He accused Coalition Chairman Elkin (Likud) of Soviet communism for not allowing his co-sponsor MK Regev (Likud) to vote for their bill. He slammed Netanyahu and his government for increasing indirect taxes and called it a bad government.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) stated that the bill asks the Funds Committee to authorize the taxes that the Finance Committee approves. He noted that certain taxes go through the Finance Committee and certain taxes go through the Funds Committee and it would lower the status of both committees if taxes needed to be approved by both.  Cohen announced that Molla was a member of the Finance Committee and wondered why he would want to reduce his power and authority to influence such a matter.

MK Molla ignored Cohen and blasted the government for five minutes. He ended by saying the government was raping its citizens.

MK Elkin blasted Molla for calling him a Soviet communist and wished that Molla and Israel never learn what Soviet communism really is. Molla did not stay in the plenum for Elkin’s rebuttal.

The bill was defeated 30-42.

Establishing the State Revenue Fund for the Distribution of Fuel Taxes Bill/Motion

MK Gilon (Meretz) blasted Likud and Kadima for not adopting his socialist financial plans. He said if the government is going to have indirect taxes they should develop a revenue fund for the purpose of public transportation. He stated he believes in free public transportation but for this capitalistic government he believes this is an adequate alternative. He noted that in England 80% of its citizens commute to work by public transportation, compared to 20% in Israel. He called on the government to support his bill or adopt his socialist financial outlook.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen expressed government opposition to the bill and asked Gilon to turn the bill into a motion. Gilon agreed.

The motion passed 23-0 and was sent to the Funds Committee.

Amendment to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel Bill

MK Aflalo (Kadima) explained his amendment would allow candidates to present themselves for re-election as the Chief Rabbi of Israel and end the current one-term limit in place.

Environment Minister Erdan expressed government support for the bill.  He said the term limit was enacted in the 1980’s and stated that the 150-member body that chooses the Chief Rabbi has no objection to reverting back to pre-1980s.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) labeled the bill the ‘Amar and Metzger Bill’ because it will take place for the current elections and not from the next elections. He charged that this is a Kadima-Likud-Labor agreement to re-elect Rabbis that are comfortable for them. He noted that a term is ten years and it is crazy to believe that someone can hold a public position for twenty years after being elected only twice. He said that by taking away the term limit a person would be able to hold that position indefinitely. He rejected claims that Rabbi Amar is liberal and called him a moderate at best.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 43-6 and was sent to the Law Committee.

Ban on Disconnecting Electricity and Water Services to Educational Institutions Bill/Motion

MK Khenin explained his bill would prevent the disconnecting of electricity or plumbing to all educational institutions even if they have never paid their utility bills. He stressed that children’s health is among the most important things and it is impossible for them to be without working toilets, drinking water and lights. He expressed his communist views that no one should have to pay for utilities and they should be free.

National Infrastructure Minister Landau (Likud) said he agreed with the bill in principle but stressed it wasn’t practical because the educational institutions will use the bill as a way to get out of paying their utilities without fear they will be disconnected. He stated that everyone needs to pay for each service they receive and that nothing is free.

MK Orlev (J.H.) noted that hospitals are exempt from being disconnected and said that schools should also join that list.

Minister Landau suggested the bill be turned into a motion, and Khenin agreed.

The motion passed 18-0 and was sent to the House Committee to choose the relevant committee for discussion.

Amendment to the Rabbinical Courts Bill

MK Schneller (Kadima) explained his amendment addresses the Rabbinical courts that hold judgments on laws of divorce. He stated that the amendment would help enforce court orders for husbands to give a woman her divorce. He listed the sanctions a person would receive for not giving a woman her divorce within 45 days of a court order: freeze of assets, confiscation of drivers’ license, freezing the sale of property, a court order forbidding him from leaving the country and eventually jail time if none of the above is successful. He noted that the bill allows the man to appeal any of the above punishments to a higher court to be heard within 30 days of his sentence. He expressed hope that this bill would lower the number of men who refuse to give a woman a divorce. He said he fought government opposition to the bill from the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 13-0 and was sent to the Law Committee.

The latest poll shows the right wing block would receive 69 seats if elections were held today and Netanyahu’s Likud would receive 32 of those seats. The new wave poll shows a similar distribution to the current Knesset seats, with the exception of Likud’s five-seat gain and Defense Minister Barak’s Independence party losing its five seats. Yisrael Beitenu and Labor would add one seat each, and Shas would lose two. The seven smaller parties (UTJ/NU/NRP/Meretz/Arabs) would receive the same number of seats they won in the 2009 elections.

Telephone poll carried out by “New Wave” for Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today) newspaper the week of May 22 and published on May 27 with a representative sample of 620 adult Israelis including Israeli Arabs.

If elections held today who would you vote for? (Expressed in Knesset seats),
current Knesset seats in [brackets].

32 [27] Likud
28 [28] Kadima
16 [15] Yisrael Beitenu
09 [11] Shas
09 [08] Labor
05 [05] UTJ
04 [04] National Union
03 [03] Meretz
03 [03] Jewish Home/NRP
11 [11] Arab parties
00 [05] Independence

Tuesday’s session lasted about three hours. Three bills were discussed and advanced after passing their first readings. A motion on Appreciation Day for the reserve soldiers was moving. The Modeling Industry Weight Limit Bill was among three bills that were advanced as Netanyahu was giving his Congress speech.

Non-Bills Summary

  • 23 MKs spoke during the one minute speech segment of the day. The main topic was the MKs’ analysis of Netanyahu’s AIPAC speech and what the MKs thought Netanyahu should say later that evening in his speech to the U.S. Congress.
  • Speaker Rivlin greeted a delegation of the European Parliament dialogue team.
  • A motion on Appreciation Day for the reserve soldiers was discussed by Speaker Rivlin, Minister and former General Peled (Likud), Strategic Affairs Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff Ya’alon (Likud), Defense Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff Barak (Independence), MK and former IDF Spokeswoman Regev (Likud), MK and former IDF Chief of Staff Mofaz (Kadima), reserve officer Cabel (Labor), MK Orbach (J.H.) and injured war hero and deputy platoon commander from the 1973 Yom Kippur War Katzeleh (N.U.).  All of the speeches involved thanking the reserve soldiers for their service.

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Joint Investment Trust Bill

MK Pinyan (Likud) explained his amendment would require the publishing of joint investment trust prospectuses in the national newspapers.

The bill passed its first reading 5-0 and was sent to the Funds Committee.

Amendment to the Propaganda Elections Bill

MK Pinyan (Likud) explained his amendment would allow election advertising on regional radio for regional council campaigns. He noted that until now only national radio could air election advertisements and this will allow the regional radio stations to increase their income.

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) noted that he was talking to an empty room because Netanyahu was giving his Congress speech. He slammed Obama and his recent speech, which he said would put Israel into a cage. He blasted Netanyahu for giving up too much in his AIPAC speech and suggested Bibi was selling the country away.

MK Zeev (Shas) supported the bill. He blasted MK Molla (Kadima) for slandering the city rabbis in a morning committee meeting and told Molla not to slander a position that he doesn’t know. He said that city rabbis act as psychologists, doctors, confidants and more, and they deserve a pay raise.

The bill passed its first reading 7-0 and was sent to the Law Committee.

Modeling Industry Weight Limit Bill

MK Adatto (Kadima) reported that every year another 1,500 Israeli teenagers are diagnosed with eating disorders. She cited university studies that link eating disorders with media, mostly female models in commercials, billboards and magazines. She announced that it starts as a diet and ends in death. She explained that her bill would prohibit skinny girls with a BMI of less than 18.5 from modeling. She added that the bill would prohibit publishing photoshopped pictures that aren’t labeled as such. Deputy Speaker Maklev (U.T.J.) praised Adatto for her bill.

MK Ben Ari praised and supported what he labeled an important bill. He blasted Netanyahu for agreeing to a Palestinian state and told the story of child terror victims who were murdered by the “moderate” Fatah party.

MK Zeev praised the bill and spoke about the dangers of eating disorders that can lead to death. He connected it to Ben Ari’s speech and said that he hoped Netanyahu doesn’t give Israel anorexia by giving away parts of Israel to the Palestinians.

The bill passed its first reading 5-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.

Monday’s session lasted about three hours. Two bills were discussed, and both were advanced in their first readings. The first bill will prohibit the discriminatory practice of not accepting a student to a school on the grounds of his country of origin. The second bill will allow committee members of the Begin and Rabin centers to serve three terms instead of just one. An interesting discussion surrounding MIA soldier Majdi Halabi was debated by a few MKS. Most of the MKs did not bother showing up to the plenum for the day while the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader both visited the United States. There were no no-confidence votes.

Non-Bills Summary

  • The marking of the six-years anniversary of soldier Majdi Halabi being missing in action was discussed by Speaker Rivlin, Minister Peled (Likud) and 5 MKs. The main topic was that Halabi’s family has chosen a different path than the family of POW soldier Gilad Shalit.
  • Speaker Rivlin welcomed to the Knesset the Foreign Affairs Committee delegation of Croatia.
  • National Infrastructure Minister Landau (Y.B.) announced the transfer of various government authorities from Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) to his office.
  • Four motions were discussed. One was sent to committee by a 13-0 vote. The other three were not voted on.

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Student Rights Bill

Education, Culture and Sport Committee Chairman Miller (Y.B.) explained his amendment to prohibit the discrimination of not accepting a student to a school on the grounds of country of origin. He expressed frustration that in this century a bill like this is needed. He pointed out several excuses mayors and principals find in order to prevent minority groups from joining their schools.

MK Molla (Kadima) praised and supported the bill. He listed cases of discrimination against the Ethiopians in particular and expressed hope this bill would be completed as soon as possible.

MK Ezra (Kadima) supported the bill. He said he was worried that teachers would fail students on purpose as a type of discrimination. He concluded by praising the national religious school system, which accepts everybody and receives the highest academic marks.

The bill passed its first reading 11-0 and was sent to the Education Committee.

Amendment to the Memorial Centers in memory of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin Bill

House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) explained that his amendment has two parts. He said the first part is meant to force the centers to maintain the museum that honors the former prime ministers in order to qualify for government funding. He said the second part is meant to allow committee members of the centers to serve three three-year terms as opposed to a single three year term as they do today. He questioned the logic in preventing people who knew and worked alongside Begin and Rabin from seeking re-election to their posts.

The bill passed its first reading 9-0 and was sent to the Culture Committee.

Last Wednesday’s session lasted about seven and a half hours. Nine bills were discussed. Two bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, four were defeated, two were turned into motions to avoid defeat and one was pulled to avoid defeat. Both bills advanced deal with consumer protection from the cell phone companies. A special meeting marking the anniversary of the victory over the Nazis was attended by a great majority of the MKs.

Non-Bill Summary

  • Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) and Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.
  • A special meeting was held to mark the 66th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Opposition Leader Livni, holocaust survivor Minister Peled (Likud), Aliya Minister Landver (Y.B.) and MKs Eichler (U.T.J.) and MK Barakeh (Hadash) all gave speeches on the subject.
  • Seven motions were discussed on a variety of topics. All of the issues will be discussed further in committee following votes of 20-0, 16-0, 14-0, 12-0, 8-2, 6-0 and 6-0.


Bills Summary

Two Amendments to the Consumer Protection Bill

MK Ariel (N.U.) explained that his amendment would force the cell phone companies to record and publish all ongoing communication conditions and deals. He added that it would force the cell phone companies to provide the consumer with financial compensation of NIS 1,000 for each error in incorrect billing. He stated the point of the bill is to give the cell phone companies incentive not to make mistakes and if they do make mistakes they are the ones who should pay for it, not the consumers.

MK Levy-Abekasis (Y.B.) stated that the law must meet the changing demands of reality. She explained that her similar amendment would force the cell phone companies to record telephone transactions. She noted that the problem is that the consumer does not have protection because he does not have anything in writing. She hoped that the recordings of the telephone transactions will help protect the consumer from companies taking advantage of them. She said that her bill will allow the consumer to demand that the company send the audio file of when the transaction was completed. She concluded by mentioning that both her and Ariel’s bills have been law in America and Europe for some time.

Strategic Affairs Minister Ya’alon (Likud) expressed government support for both bills.

Both bills passed their preliminary readings 33-0 and 37-0. After being merged they were sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment to the Penal Code Bill

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) explained that his amendment would add the discrimination of religion, ethnic background or city to the definition of racism under Israeli law. He read several quotes from various media outlets that spread incitement, racism and anti-Semitism against ultra-orthodox people, settlers in Judea and Samaria and Jewish minority groups such as Russians and Ethiopians. He asked how Israeli society could tolerate such things. He quoted MKs, radio broadcasters and journalists who said things such as “the national religious people are Nazis”, “in certain settlements we need to kill every last settler”, “the ultra-orthodox should be eliminated and we should take away their citizenship” and “we will drink the blood of Jews during Passover”.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that the government stands by the existing law that says racism is only defined as racism if the individual calls for violence. He was heckled by several MKs during his response.

MK Shamalov Berkovich (Kadima) slammed the government for opposing the bill and slammed the Kadima party for opposing the bill that she co-sponsored. She blasted the Justice Minister for not responding to any of the examples MK Ben Ari gave of racism. She announced she is not allowed to vote for her bill but asked the MKs to vote in favor of it.

The bill was defeated 4-55 with MK Shamalov Berkovich abstaining.

Basic Studies in the Education System Bill

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained that the bill would require all state-funded schools and private schools to teach the core basic studies. He named his core five subjects: Tanach and Jewish heritage with Muslims and Christians learning about their faiths, History and Civics, Hebrew, Math and Science, and English. He slammed the ultra-orthodox for forcing the government to oppose this bill. He suggested that because they learn all day they should be able to find time for five more subjects over the course of a week. He warned of a new generation that does not have the basic knowledge needed to enter the workforce. He noted in 1960 61% of students were in the public system. In 2000 it dropped to 40%, and in 2008 it dropped again to 39%. He revealed that in 2010 it dropped to an all-time low of 36%, compared to 52% that were learning in private ultra-orthodox or Arab schools. He said that according to the Taub institute in 2040 only 14% of Israeli students will be in the public school system compared to 78% in the private ultra-orthodox and Arab schools. He blasted these private schools that do not teach science, history, civics or Jewish heritage. He slammed the schools for not educating their students to go to the army or preparing them to get a job in the workforce. He recalled that during his time as education minister he saw the radical Islam movement take over a lot of Arab schools. He called on the Knesset to support his bill.

Environmental Minister Erdan (Likud) noted that the core subjects were taught throughout the history of Israel until former Prime Minister Olmert changed it under the watch of Labor Education Minister Tamir. He remarked it was interesting that a Kadima MK is blaming the Likud for a problem that Kadima created. Erdan noted that schools that don’t teach the core subjects are only budgeted 60%-75% as opposed to public schools who receive 100%. He noted the percentage is based on the number of core subjects they teach.

MK Sheetrit blasted Shas whose MKs went into the army and refused to send their children. He slammed the government, which, he claimed, allows half of Israel’s children not to receive an education. He noted that he was just supposed to be a co-sponsor of the bill. He revealed this was MK Hotovely’s (Likud) bill but she had to remove her name due to government pressure.

The bill was defeated 22-47.

Amendment to the Civil Defense Bill

MK Shai (Kadima) explained his amendment would force the government to distribute gas mask kits to the entire population. He thanked his 28 co-sponsors. He noted that from 1990 until recently every house was allocated a gas mask for each person. He revealed that according to the army the government has only released enough funds for the next two years to protect 55% of the public. He added that by the end of 2012 the number of functional gas masks per population will drop to 40%. He stated that 25% of the population currently does not have a gas mask or secured room.

Strategic Affairs Minister Ya’alon expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that it would cost the State one billion shekels. He revealed that, personally, he is against handing out gas masks all together. He stated that Israel is one of only a few nations that still hands out gas masks and stressed his opinion that secured rooms are more important and effective. He mentioned that the best defense is offense.

The bill was defeated 15-41.

Amendment to the Youth Bill

MK Soldokin (Kadima) explained that her amendment would give extended family preference over foster care when it comes to the care and supervision of children that are taken out of their family’s homes. She stressed that uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents will do a better job raising the children then foster families or social services. She noted that foster care leads to kids losing their extended family along with their parents. She noted that religious kids are sometimes put in secular families and lose their tradition. She reported that an entire generation of children has grown up in this fashion without any connection to their real families or heritage.

Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) stressed that the child’s best interest is what is important, not the family’s best interest. He explained that the family is not always best for the child.

MK Solodkin said that this was the type of poor excuse she heard from ministers in her previous country of residence, the Soviet Union.

The bill was defeated 8-30 with one MK abstaining.

Motion/Amendment to the Local Authorities Bill

MK Bielski (Kadima) explained that his amendment would allow mayors to expand the enforcement of public order by giving more authority to city inspectors. He recalled when he was elected mayor of Ra’anana he learned that he had the power to change the city’s education, culture, environment and more but that the police and crime fighting was the one area where he had no power. He had many traffic jams, and the police wouldn’t direct traffic, so Bielski took it upon himself to get trained by the police to direct traffic. He explained that after seven years he got certified as a city inspector and he directed traffic in his city when no police officer could be found. He noted that there are 28,340 police officers for almost eight million citizens and that 40,000 officers are needed. He stated that each officer costs the country NIS 222,000 annually and that is why no one will agree to hire more. He said city inspectors only cost NIS 60,000 per year. He presented a solution of expanding the powers of city inspectors in order to lower the burden on the police. He noted that his bill would give the same powers to city inspectors as those given in the United States.

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) explained there is a pilot project in thirteen cities of “city cops” a new position whose responsibilities lie somewhere between police officers and city inspectors. He revealed that twelve more cities will join the pilot this year. He stated that this way the mayors still won’t control the police in their city. He said that he is also planning on giving city inspectors more authority, but only after he learns the outcomes of his “city cop” project. He stressed replacing police officers with city inspectors is wrong even if it is cheaper. He offered MK Bielski the opportunity to turn the bill into a motion. Bielski agreed.

The motion passed 23-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

Amendment to the Local Authorities Elections Bill

MK Naffaa (Balad) explained his amendment would restrict candidates who have a debt of property tax or water payments to be elected to local authorities. He asked how someone can be a part of the process if they refuse to pay their part. He noted during their re-election campaign they would be receiving government funds, even though they refuse to pay their debt to their city. Naffaa decided to pull the bill to avoid defeat.

Motion/Amendment to the Water Bill

MK Barakeh (Hadash) explained his amendment would return the supervision and control of agriculture water rates to the Funds Committee. He announced that it was once in the hand of the committee and it was taken away and given to the ministers to decide. He slammed the high water rates as a result of the privatization of the country’s water resources. He confessed that, as the leader of Israel’s communist party, he is against the privatization of everything.

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch asked if Barakeh would turn the bill into a motion. He explained that Infrastructure Minister Landau wants to discuss the matter with him in the committee. Barakeh accepted the offer.

The motion was passed 32-0 and sent to the Funds Committee.

An internet-based poll by the Panels Polling Company broadcast tonight (May 26) on Knesset Channel 99 has Netanyahu and the Likud party opening up a gap over Livni’s Kadima. Two polls taken earlier in the week showed similar results. Results for the smaller parties were not broadcast, so the right-wing block cannot be measured.

If elections were held today, expressed in Knesset seats, current Knesset seats in [brackets]

30 [27] Likud
24 [28] Kadima
15 [15] Yisrael Beitenu
10 [11] Shas
08 [08] Labor
NA [03] Meretz
NA [05] Yahadut Hatorah/UTJ
NA [04] National Union
NA [03] Jewish Home/NRP
NA [11] Arab parties
NA [05] Independence led by Ehud Barak

Last Tuesday’s session lasted about three hours. Two bills were discussed, and both passed in their first readings. A bill limiting how alcohol products are marketed and a bill on creating a committee charged with fighting hunger were both advanced.

Non-Bills Summary

  • 22 MKs spoke during the one-minute speech segment that opened the day. The main topic was the MKs’ response to Netanyahu’s foreign policy speech the day before.
  • Speaker Rivlin gave a warm speech to the Kazakhstan-Israel Friendship Society leaders.
  • MK Eldad (N.U.) gave his report on the Knesset’s Middle East delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Athens. He noted that there was an interesting discussion on whether Jordan should be a Palestinian state and Bahrain surprisingly supported it.
  • A motion on the 2011 Nakba Day events and their implications were discussed by nine MKs and summarized by Minister Peled (Likud). The Knesset rejected a proposal to discuss the matter further by a 2-5 vote among the handful of MKs who were left at the end of the day.

Bills Summary

National Council for Food Security Bill

MK Avraham Balila (Kadima) stated that 1.5 million Israelis live under the poverty line and her bill would create a 13-member committee reporting to the Labor and Welfare Minister to solve the hunger problem. She stressed that the lack of food is more critical than any other issue that poor people face and that should be the first issue the country solves for them. She rejected the country’s reliance on private and outside organizations that are doing the work the country should be doing itself. She noted that the committee would not be authorized to allocate funds but would be able to suggest to the minister that he allocate funds for feeding Israel’s citizens.

MK Ben-Ari (N.U.) recalled his childhood in the Hatikva neighborhood of Tel Aviv, where in the 1970’s some of his neighbors didn’t have electricity. He recalled his time as a teacher in Bet Shemesh in the 1980’s, when some of the students didn’t have money to buy socks and suffered frost bite in the winter. He expressed frustration that today in other cities similar problems still exist, such as people who don’t have enough money to buy beds. He stated the biggest problem is that there are people who don’t know how to ask for help because they don’t know they are entitled to certain privileges from the government.

MK Eichler (U.T.J.) recalled his plan from seven years ago that would entitle poor citizens to food stamps and how Prime Minister Sharon opposed and defeated his bill. He went on to express his frustration with the housing shortage and asked the government to listen to him and not to wait seven years to suggest the same exact thing he did, like they did with this bill.

MK Maklev (U.T.J.) expressed his frustration about Israel’s poverty and expressed support for the bill.

MK Molla (Kadima) praised the bill and slammed the government for not feeding its citizens. He stated that the government should not rely on third parties to bail it out of its commitments. He stated he is in favor of big government.

MK Zeev (Shas) warned everyone that solving poverty will not happen in one day. He quoted the torah that states there will always be poor people. He recalled a situation when he was the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and a man from the Har Nof neighborhood was thrown in jail for not paying the water bill, leaving his wife and ten children without him or running water. Zeev paid the bill and had the man released. He noted many people today are thrown in jail for not paying utility bills and that preventing this occurrence is the easiest way to help the poor.

The bill passed its first reading 13-0 and was sent to the Labor and Welfare Committee.

Limitation on the Advertising and Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill

MK Danon (Likud) noted that between 50% and 60% of Israeli teens consume alcohol. He slammed those who market alcohol as cool to teenagers. He explained that the first part of the bill will prevent the alcohol companies from advertising or marketing their products with celebrities, athletes, models or any other person. He said that they will only be able to market their product with pictures of the product itself and by itself. He explained that the second part of the bill would put a warning on the label of the alcohol product that excessive drinking is dangerous for one’s health. He acknowledged that this will not prevent teens from drinking but said he hoped that it might limit it. He said it will also send a message that the government is against underage drinking.

MK Eichler noted that this is the first generation of Israelis who are drinking. He stated that these percentages did not exist a decade ago. He urged Danon to add a clause to ensure that underage drinking of wine for religious purposes would not be effected by this bill.

MK Ben-Ari recalled when he and Danon took a tour of downtown Jerusalem at two in the morning and spoke with drunken teens and the police who were sitting there did nothing to prevent the drinking. He recalled the soldiers who were drinking in their uniforms and the techniques they described for getting drunk faster and cheaper. He stated that the next generation is drunk and empty of principles and confessed he was worried about the future of this generation and the country. He praised the bill and expressed his support.

MK Levin (Likud) praised and supported the bill. He called for education to warn against underage drinking and drunkenness.

MK Zeev said that wine isn’t the problem but hard alcohol is. He questioned what the difference is between hard alcohol and other drugs, calling for it to be outlawed. He noted that in the United States the punishment for a drunken road accident death is 21 years in jail but that here in Israel the punishment is much less. He praised and supported the bill.

Deputy Speaker Danon added that in some states in the United States it is forbidden to sell alcohol on Sundays. He explained this was enacted so that no one showed up drunk to church.

The bill passed its first reading 8-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

According to a poll broadcast yesterday the Likud had developed a five seat lead over Kadima 34-29. The second poll, published today, showed an eleven seat gap 33-22. The second poll gave the right 70 seats, a gain of five.

If elections were held today, expressed in Knesset seats, current Knesset seats in [brackets], Poll #1 on left and Poll #2 in middle.

34 33 [27] Likud
29 22 [28] Kadima
14 17 [15] Yisrael Beitenu
NA 10 [11] Shas
08 09 [08] Labor
NA 06 [03] Meretz
NA 05 [05] Yahadut Hatorah/UTJ
NA 03 [04] National Union
NA 02 [03] Jewish Home/NRP
NA 11 [11] Arab parties*
NA 02 [00] Green Party
NA 00 [05] Independence led by Ehud Barak

Poll #1 Sarid Institute Poll for Israel Television Channel 2 News broadcast on May 24

Poll #2 GeoCartographia Poll by Professor Avi Dagani published on May 25

GeoCartographia asked: Are you for or against ’67 borders with mutual swaps as outlined by President Obama? 61% were against, 27% were for.

Last Monday’s session lasted about five hours. The day’s highlight was Netanyahu, who gave a foreign policy speech after surviving three no-confidence votes to begin the summer session. Four bills were discussed. One was advanced after passing its first reading and three became law after passing their third readings. Although the new laws are very interesting, Netanyahu’s short discussion on his foreign policy during his speech about Herzl Day took the headlines. Before Netanyahu gave his speech, the six liberal opposition parties failed in three no-confidence votes to bring down the government. The session was the first of the summer and only the third in the past 47 days.

Non-Bills Summary:

  • Kadima’s no-confidence motion titled ‘Netanyahu government’s failure in the political, economic and social sectors’ was defeated 40-52, with 1 MK abstaining and 27 MKs not present for the vote.
  • Hadash, Ra’am-Ta’al and Balad’s joint no-confidence motion titled ‘A Government that harms democracy’ was defeated 13-57, with 16 abstaining and 34 MKs not present.
  • Labor and Meretz joint no-confidence motion titled ‘The government’s failure in the political, social and economic sectors’ was defeated 39-56, with 1 MK abstaining and 24 MKs not present.
  • Herzl Day was marked by speeches from Speaker Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Livni. Netanyahu chose to give an outline of his upcoming U.S. Congress speech on his outlook of the government position regarding negotiations with the Palestinians. Most of his speech dealt with Herzl, the Arab spring and the Nakba day attacks on Israel. When Netanyahu started talking about his policy Kadima heckled him and Speaker Rivlin tried to regain order. Netanyahu explained the reason he prefers not to give policy speeches in the Knesset is because he can’t get out a sentence without being heckled. Netanyahu outlined his policy stressing the need for keeping the peace with Jordan and Egypt, preventing a nuclear Iran, preserving Israel’s security and forcing the Palestinians to accept Israel as the Jewish state. He discussed the end of the conflict, that the refugee problem be solved outside of Israel’s borders, that the Palestinian state have borders according to the Anadora model he presented in his Bar Ilan speech and that there be Israeli presence on the Jordan river, Israeli sovereignty over the settlement blocks and an undivided Jerusalem. He asked Fatah to choose Israel over Hamas, saying that he is looking for a Palestinian state next to Israel, not a Palestinian state instead of Israel. Livni’s speech painted Netanyahu and his coalition as war hawks who are not interested in peace and are turning the United States from a friend to an enemy. She was, in turn, heckled by Likud MKs. She mentioned her view of Herzl was different than Netanyahu’s.
  • House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced the following changes in the Knesset committees: MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) will replace Internal Affairs and Environment Chairman Azoulay (Shas) in his position. MK Azoulay will take MK Cohen’s spot in the Finance Committee, as a permanent substitute in the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee and as a member of two sub-committees.

Bills Summary:

Amendment to the Religious Courts Bill

Constitution, Law and Justice Chairman Rotem (Y.B.) explained that the amendment would add the assistance units used in the regular court system to the religious court system as well. He said the assistance units include mediation, counseling, arbitration, as well as other similar services the judges can use during a trial. He stressed that the professional opinions may be disregarded by the religious judges if they disagree with the assistance unit in any case.

MK Molla (Kadima) expressed his support for the bill. He explained that the previous draft of the bill was problematic but expressed his satisfaction with the final draft. He noted the changes that would ensure that women would receive equality to men in the assistance units as well as the prohibition of the court appointing their own people in the assistance units.

The bill passed its second reading 19-0.

The bill passed its third reading 16-0.

Amendment to the Entry into Israel Bill

Internal Affairs and Environment Chairman Azoulay (Shas) explained that the amendment would prevent foreign workers from jumping between jobs and contain them within a specific geographic area during their temporary stay in Israel. He added that any foreign workers who have been out of work for 90 days must be deported. He noted that the final draft of the bill will force the Interior Minister to invoke these laws on an individual basis and not automatically. He summarized that the reason for the limit placed on the time and location the foreign workers can work is to ensure they stay in the Negev and Galil. He concluded that this bill was split off from the Arrangements Bill before the vote on the budget in the winter session.

MK Khenin (Hadash) objected to the bill on the grounds that the bill is a violation of basic democratic rights. He slammed the limits placed on the foreign workers’ ability to transfer between jobs and travel between cities and deports those who are unemployed. He said that the country is using these foreign workers as modern day slave labor instead of promoting these jobs for Israelis. He warned that this bill will force the workforce companies to bring in more foreign workers to make up for the new restrictions. He said that it would create a revolving door policy that promotes human trafficking. He warned this bill will probably be thrown out by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional. He noted that there are around 200,000 foreign workers in Israel and they are entitled to basic rights. He questioned the logic of a violation of a human right if it doesn’t even accomplish its purpose. He listed several liberals who are against the bill. He quoted a few of them and asked the MKs to listen to them and their analysis.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) stated that the foreign workers are as entitled to basic rights as the old and disabled people who hire them. He called for equality. He agreed that many foreign workers leave their employers but stressed that taking away their basic rights is not the proper answer. He noted several liberal groups who opposed the bill and quoted from them. He agreed with Khenin’s analysis of the bill and noted that most of the foreign workers are women. He stated that this bill is a terrible one because it hurts more women than men.

MK Gal-On (Meretz) expressed her support for the 100,000 illegal foreign workers and blasted the bill that would deport them. She noted they were people too. She also agreed with Khenin and Horowitz’s analysis and objected to the bill.

MK Azoulay responded that the current situation where the foreign workers leave their employers to find a better job is unacceptable and not fair for the disabled and elderly people who are no longer cared for. He also stressed the need to deport illegal foreign workers in order to send a positive message to those who work legally and stay with their employers.

The objections were defeated 4-29, 5-27 and 5-26.

The paragraphs were passed in their second reading 27-5 and 26-5.

The bill passed its third reading 26-5.

MK Azoulay thanked the Knesset for passing this new law and for bringing justice to the elderly and disabled people who are in desperate need of foreign workers’ services.

Amendment to the Elections Bill

Constitution, Law and Justice Chairman Rotem explained that changes were made as a result of the lessons learned from previous elections. He stated among those changes is a way for the shabak officers to vote without having their identities revealed as well as changes in the handicap polling booths. He asked the Knesset to vote in favor of his objections on the bill that will force those who are voting in special polling booths to declare the reason they need the special polling booth.

The bills paragraphs passed their second readings 16-0, 14-0, 15-0, 14-0 and 16-0.

MK Rotem’s objections were accepted 9-6 and 10-2.

The bill passed its third reading with MK Rotem’s objections 15-0.

Amendment to the Labor Court Bill

Information and Diaspora Minister Edelstein (Likud) explained that this bill will update the law on the Labor courts based on the findings of a committee that was charged with updating the law. He assured this bill would assist in reducing the time it takes for Labor Courts to reach their verdicts. He mentioned that the bill would go through changes in committee and by the requests of Justice Minister Neeman before becoming law.

The bill passed its first reading 13-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Panels Polling Company conducted one last internet-based poll on Thursday, May 12, towards the end of the Knesset’s 46-day winter break. According to the poll the conservative block would receive 64 seats, representing a loss of one seat. Kadima would receive 31 seats and expand their lead over Likud to three seats. Despite six candidates campaigning for the Labor party leadership, Labor would not receive more than their current eight seats. Another interesting trend is that the smaller parties are either gaining or maintaining their support. This trend was predicted by a previous Dahaf poll which showed 55% of the 18-35 demographic voted for the smaller parties in the 2009 elections. It would seem that, according to the poll data, if National Union and the Jewish Home merged into one party, their nine seats would make them the fourth largest party in Knesset. This would create a scenario where three of the four largest parties would be conservative and could prevent the ultra-orthodox parties from joining a Kadima-led government.

If elections were held today, expressed in Knesset seats, current Knesset seats in [brackets].
31 [28] Kadima
28 [27] Likud
14 [15] Yisrael Beitenu
08 [11] Shas
08 [08] Labor
05 [04] National Union
05 [05] Yahadut Hatorah/UTJ
05 [03] Meretz
04 [03] Jewish Home/NRP
11 [11] Arab parties*
1 [05] Independence led by Ehud Barak

• Israeli Arab seats would be distributed as follows: Hadash 4, Balad 4, Ra’am-Ta’al 3.
• Independence would not pass the required threshold and would forfeit their seat. It is unclear which party would pick up the 120th seat.