Last Wednesday’s session lasted about seven and a half hours. Nine bills were discussed. Two bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, three were turned into motions to avoid defeat, one was pulled to avoid defeat and three were defeated. The bills advanced extend tax benefits for Sderot and Western Negev residents and businesses and allow local authorities to allocate money to a special fund for educational structures.

 

Non-Bills Summary

  • Seven urgent queries were answered by Justice Minister Neeman, Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas), Home Front Defense Minister Vilnai (Independence), Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.), Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) and Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.).
  • Speaker Rivlin greeted the conference attendees of Jewish parliamentarians from around the world with a warm speech.
  • Eight motions were discussed on various topics and were sent for further discussion in committee by the votes 9-0, 6-0, 7-0, 9-0, 5-0, 4-2, 5-0 and 4-0.

 

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Planning and Building Bill

MK Levin (Likud) explained his amendment would allocate a fund for planning and building education institutions in local authorities. He said this bill is the idea of the Mayor of Kiryat Uno. Speaker Rivlin was surprised that the finance ministry agreed to designate funds for a certain purpose. Levin thanked Rivlin and said he was sure it will be an uphill battle to pass the bill into law.

Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 21-0 and was sent to the Education Committee. Speaker Rivlin said the bill should have gone to the Interior Committee but said the MKs can choose which committee  they want even if it is against protocol.

Amendment to the Temporary Provisions on the Assistance to Sderot and Western Negev Bill

MK Hermesh (Kadima) explained his amendment would prevent the cancellation of tax benefits for people who live in Sderot and the Western Negev. The amendment would extend the benefits through 2011 but would leave to the Finance Minister the decision to extend the provision from 2012 and beyond. He reported that Sderot is blooming and has survived the rocket fire from Gaza. Hermesh told a joke about Moroccans who can’t pronounce Sderot correctly because they mix up the pronunciation of the letters shin and sin.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) called on Hermesh to wipe the joke off the official protocol, stressing that, as a Moroccan, he is deeply offended by the joke. Hermesh agreed. Afterwards Cohen expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 37-0 and was sent to the Funds Committee.

Armenian Genocide Day Bill/Motion

MK Eldad (N.U.) talked about how in his childhood he visited the Aaronson House, a symbol of the Jewish struggle against the British Mandate. He stated that there he learned about the Armenian genocide and subsequently read many books on the subject. He said that until now most of the world denies the fact that Armenians were massacred. He noted only 22 countries recognize Armenian Genocide Day and explained his bill would make Israel the 23rd. He noted that Hitler carried out the holocaust because he knew the world would ignore the killing of the Jews as they did the killing of the Armenians. He noted Turkey at first confessed to killing 300,000 then, in 1919, 800,000, while Turkey’s ally Germany estimated the number at 1.5 million. He noted America, Canada and France are among the 22 countries that have recognized the genocide and called on Israel to join the leading democratic countries in doing so. He blasted Turkey for attacking Israel in every international arena and for sending the flotilla. He connected the Turkish government to the IHH, a terrorist organization which the Turkish government forbade from participating in the second flotilla. He said it is right and smart to recognize the genocide. He slammed the government and the leading opposition party, Kadima, for opposing his bill and denying the genocide.

Speaker Rivlin noted that he supported the Armenian delegation and the delegation of Jewish parliamentarians from various democracies sitting in the gallery. He openly supported and announced his solidarity with Eldad and his bill.

National Infrastructure Minister Landau (Y.B.) agreed there was genocide of the Armenian people in 1915-1916, which were the final years of the Ottoman Empire. He said Israel never denied the tragedy but has opposed the politicizing of it. He explained that Turkey and Armenia are in discussions on the issue and said Israel has no place there and should leave it an internal issue between those two parties. He suggested turning the bill into a motion. Eldad agreed after Rivlin suggested it would be a step in the right direction to at least discuss it in a committee.

The motion passed 25-1 and was sent to the Education Committee.

Motion/Amendment to the Tenant Protection Bill

MK Sarsur (R.T.) explained his amendment would prohibit the evacuation of a person from his house. He said that hundreds of families are thrown out of their homes every year either because the landlords are kicking them out on the street for failing to pay rent or because they don’t pay taxes. He stressed his bill would prevent this from happening. Speaker Rivlin said he was worried that this bill would cause landlords not to rent apartments to poor people.

Justice Minister Neeman opposed the bill on the grounds that people will stop paying rent and paying taxes if they are not worried about being evicted. He offered government support for a motion on the subject, and Sarsur agreed.

The motion passed 31-0 with one MK abstaining and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Motion/Amendment to the Collection of Taxes Bill

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained his amendment would prohibit the possessing of a debtor’s property or bank account because of parking debts in the first year after receiving a fine. He said the cities have turned parking fines into money makers and are trigger happy on freezing bank accounts and credit cards without warning the person first.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen said Sheetrit’s bill makes a lot of sense but the government opposes the bill because of pressure from the local authorities. He asked Sheetrit to turn the bill into a motion to keep the issue alive.

The motion passed 34-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

Amendment to the Independence House Bill

MK Sheetrit explained his amendment would prevent the transfer of the Bible House in the Independence House from the State to the municipality of Tel Aviv. He noted the library has 800 Bibles from the last 400 years, written in 160 different languages. He said the room where the State was declared should remain the property of all Israelis and not be given to Tel Aviv. He slammed the NIS 1 million rent that was placed on the Bible House. He said the connection between the Bible and the founding of the State is undeniable and it is a scandal to think that the Bible House and the room where Israel was created should be given to Tel Aviv so they can evict them.

Culture and Sport Minister Livnat (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that the current bill allows the Independence House to govern itself without the government interfering. She said the government is against private organizations receiving protection through the law and is against the government making decisions over the Independence House Council.

MK Sheetrit asked the government why they are clinging to legal technicalities instead of keeping the Bible inside the house where Israel was created. Prime Minister Netanyahu asked Sheetrit to delay the vote or turn the bill into a motion and assured him that he will personally take care of the situation. Sheetrit said there isn’t enough time to prevent it without passing the bill. Netanyahu agreed to help Sheetrit even though Sheetrit was forcing him to vote against the bill.

The bill was defeated 19-30.

Amendment to the Consumer Protection Bill

MK Tiviaev (Kadima) explained his amendment would prohibit the placement of advertisements on cars or vehicles. He stressed this bill is good for the environment because it will prevent littering and will prevent road accidents caused by having many advertisements on the ground. He slammed all the ministers for claiming they support the bill while the government is against it.

Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) allowed the Kadima MKs to heckle him for about ten minutes because the coalition didn’t have a majority in the plenum. He answered Tiviaev that the government is against the bill because it is not a matter of consumer protection and rather a matter of the environment. He said the government is against having amendments to laws in the wrong places.

MK Tiviaev said he doesn’t even know if the government would support the bill if he did change it. He slammed the government for playing games with him and not taking the opposition seriously. He asked the other MKs for advice on what he should do and ultimately decided to proceed with the vote.

The bill was defeated 16-29.

Amendment to the Evidence Ordinance Bill

MK Solodkin explained her amendment would prohibit a conviction based solely on the defendant’s confession in cases when there is no evidence to convict the defendant. She said many times detectives force confessions out of people and later the defendants are released when the police find the real criminal.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that sometimes confessions are enough to convict. He said that many criminals will walk if this bill is passed. He told Solodkin she was going too far with the bill.

MK Solodkin said she didn’t feel her bill went too far.

The bill was defeated 8-19.

Amendment to the Handicapped Parking Bill

MK Gilon (Meretz) explained his amendment would prohibit anyone who isn’t a police officer from giving penalty charge notices or tickets to licensed handicap vehicles parked in no parking zones. He said there isn’t enough handicap parking zones so handicapped people park in no parking zones and they shouldn’t be ticketed by trigger happy city officials.

Minister Eitan (Likud) warned that Gilon’s bill would hurt the handicapped instead of helping them. He suggested passing legislation that would increase the amount of handicap parking and give city inspectors sensitivity training for dealing with the handicapped. He agreed the city inspectors are trigger happy and suggested giving the job to someone else but not wasting police resources on parking violations. He suggested turning the bill into a motion so all sides- the government, the local authorities and the handicapped- could discuss the matter in committee.

MK Gilon read out the current law, which he claimed is not being followed, and said that is why his bill is necessary. He said he is willing to delay the vote for two weeks but refused to turn the bill into a motion.

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