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.