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.