Monday’s session lasted about six hours. Six bills were discussed. Five bills were advanced after passing their first readings, and one bill became law after passing its third reading. Netanyahu presented a bill for the first time since he was reelected Prime Minister in 2009. It was also the first time a Prime Minister had presented a bill since former Prime Minister Sharon presented the Disengagement Bill in 2005. The Procedures to Accelerate Planning and Construction of a Residential Building Bill was discussed by opposition and coalition members. Another highlight of the day was the transfer of certain Mossad responsibilities from Defense Minister Barak to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

 

Non-Bills Summary

  • Kadima’s no-confidence motion titled ‘The Netanyahu government negatively affects working women and intends to raise the retirement age for women to 67’ was defeated 37-56 with 27 MKs not attending.
  • Labor’s no-confidence motion titled ‘The government’s economic failure is causing prices to rise in all sectors of the economy’ was defeated 36-58 with 26 MKs not attending.
  • Meretz’s no-confidence motion titled ‘The inability of the government to act against the rebellion and growing threats to the rule of law’ was defeated 34-61 with 25 MKs not attending.
  • Hadash, Ra’am-Ta’al and Balad’s joint no-confidence motion titled ‘The food and public transportation prices and regressive taxes in Israel are the highest in the world’ was defeated 31-60 with 29 MKs not attending.
  • Intelligence Minister Meridor announced the transfer of certain authorities and responsibilities from Defense Minister Barak to Prime Minister Netanyahu. MKs Ariel (N.U.), Khenin (Hadash) and Bielski (Kadima) gave speeches opposing the move on the grounds that Meridor refused to report which responsibilities are being transferred. Speaker Rivlin agreed to MK Ariel’s request to learn more on what he is voting on and brought up Meridor, who explained the issue is classified because it involves the Israeli Mossad. The measure was approved by a 24-4 vote.

 

Bills Summary

Temporary Provision to the Procedures to Accelerate Planning and Construction of a Residential Building Bill

Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that just about every MK has at some point complained to him about the housing crisis. He was heckled by the opposition on the grounds that the Prime Minister should not be presenting a bill to the Knesset. Speaker Rivlin reminded the MKs that former Prime Minister Shamir presented the original bill to the Knesset in 1990. Netanyahu explained the housing crisis is a result of the growing population. He reported that there is a gap every year of 10,000 building units that need to be built and are not, noting the government built 35,000 units this year compared to the 45,000 needed. He said the current shortage is between 60,000 and 100,000 building units. He reported the five measures his government has already implemented to tackle the problem, stating he has improved transportation from the Galil and the Negev to the center of the country by building new railroad lines and multi-lane freeways, granted young couples NIS 100,000 grants to build homes in 28 designated cities throughout Israel, moved multiple army bases to the Negev, overturned the prohibition on building new housing projects in the center of the country and reduced taxes for people selling apartments. MK Ben Ari (N.U.) was thrown out for heckling. Netanyahu defended his five actions and the money he spent on trying to solve the problem. He slammed the Israeli bureaucracy in general and the Israel Land Authority in particular as the main reasons Israel has a housing shortage. He praised the reform he started in the Israel Land Authority and said that many fundamental changes are coming, among them reducing the hostility between homeowners and the authority, productively marketing new homes, ensuring managerial flexibility and hiring dozens of experts to help expedite the marketing of homes. He said the two hurdles are ensuring a pension for the authority workers and shortening the marketing speed from 5-8 years per building unit to about a year. He explained his temporary provision will merge the authority committees into a one stop shop and enforce timetables and deadlines. He hoped these changes, along with what his government has already accomplished, will close the gap of the housing shortage and bring results quickly. He said the easiest way to lower demand for houses is to increase the supply. He said he hoped the opposition, who heckled his whole speech, will approve this important and much needed bill.

Opposition Leader Livni slammed Netanyahu for turning the speech into a press conference. She called Netanyahu a marketing expert and not a Prime Minister. She blasted the indirect taxes, shrinking middle class and cottage cheese prices. She accused Netanyahu of being all talk and no walk. She criticized Netanyahu and the ministers who left the room saying they are too afraid to hear another opinion. She said there are 160,000 empty apartments in the Galil and Negev, and Netanyahu’s solution is to build in the center of the country. She said that transportation reform for the Negev and Galil is a stop gap measure because the government should really create jobs in those areas. She noted there are 50,000 people on the list for public housing, and Netanyahu doesn’t even touch the issue with this bill. She said the real gap is between what Netanyahu says and what Netanyahu does.

MK Swaid (Hadash) slammed Netanyahu for explaining the problem and what the government has supposedly done to solve the problem instead of solving the problem. He warned lowering the price of apartments is dangerous because it will impact the taxes the government collects. He said an average family cannot afford an apartment unless they work for 15 years with no expenses. He stated that adding thousands of new apartments now will not solve the current situation but, rather, will help the future. He slammed the bill for discriminating against the Arab communities because it doesn’t call for legalizing the illegal homes in Arab villages.

MK Khenin (Hadash) slammed Netanyahu for presenting the bill and not staying to hear what the MKs have to say about it. He said the housing market is failing and a reform is needed but this bill falls short. He asked why the bill isn’t encouraging people to rent out their empty apartments. He slammed the government for not placing pressure on the builders who are not marketing 160,000 housing units that are sitting empty. He noted the bill covers houses, but not synagogues, schools, health clinics or bus stations, so the houses will not have services. He said the land authority is undermanned and that is why there are problems, claiming it has nothing to do with bureaucracy. He slammed the bill for not being environmentally friendly.

MK Regev (Likud) praised the bill and expressed her support. She encouraged supervision over the implementation of the NIS 100,000 grant. She slammed the selective housing prices of NIS 400,000 in Bet Shemesh compared to NIS 1.5 million for the same sized apartment in Rosh Ha’ayin. She called for a cap of NIS 600,000-700,000 for a first apartment.

MK Ariel (N.U.) called the bill vandalism. He slammed Netanyahu for freezing construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the Arab villages. He said 10,000 units are sitting ready for marketing and Netanyahu refuses to sign off on it. He noted that after six years two thirds of the disengagement refugees are still homeless. He stressed that releasing houses for marketing is the solution, not another bill.

MK Eichler (U.T.J.) recalled that when Israel was poor in the 1950s the government still found a house for every person. He slammed the government for not doing the same. He noted 8,000 apartments are being held up in Rosh Ha’ayin because of a fight over who will take care of the sewage. He said Bet Shemesh doesn’t receive government subsidies and it is just cheap because Haredim live there.

MK Plesner (Kadima) slammed the government for creating and not solving the housing crisis and said Netanyahu instead chose to keep the lies coming. He called on removing the marketing blocks on the 160,000 apartments ready for new families. He called the bill pointless since the solution is to release the apartments, which will flood the market with new apartments. He said creating another neighborhood like Hemed in Meveseret Tzion, which has only houses and no other services, is not a helpful solution.

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) said the bill is a bad plan and won’t be implemented since the Israel Land Authority chairman is against the reform and acts against the government. He warned this bill will help the country of Tel Aviv and hurt the rest of Israel. He called on giving incentives to the builders to sell apartments fast, restricting the purchase of more than one apartment per year and forcing people who bought land to build on it or forfeit the land back to the government or get taxed heavily.

MK Katzeleh (N.U.) said there are two big problems with the housing crisis. One is the national deficit, and the other is the country not agreeing to increase the debt to solve the problem. He recalled when he helped Sharon build 120,000 apartments in two years, from 1990 to 1992. His solution for lowering prices is allowing the public to buy land directly from the country without middlemen and removing the building restrictions in Jerusalem. He said his solution is the only solution and asked Deputy Speaker Akunis (Likud) to pass the message along to Netanyahu.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) said for the first time he has to agree with Katzeleh because he is 100% right. He said it is dangerous to bypass the planning committees because the result is failed neighborhoods. He called on giving the land authority more manpower and resources. He said this bill isn’t a supertanker but, rather, a superbluff.

MK Levi-Abekasis (Y.B.) supported and praised the bill. She said it is not a quick fix but, rather, a long-term partial solution. She said it would be unwise to oppose the bill because it doesn’t go far enough, stressing we should support even partial solutions. She criticized that social housing is not part of the bill.

MK Zuaretz (Kadima) said the solution is not legislation but marketing authorized housing projects. She asked how having more committees will reduce bureaucracy. She said this bill helps private interests dictate to mayors how their cities will be built up.

MK Molla (Kadima) accused Netanyahu of spinning every problem instead of solving them. He asked Netanyahu why, if the shortage is 100,000 and there are 160,000 in the reserves, the solution isn’t to release those reserves. He called on the government to purchase thousands of apartments and sell those apartments themselves.

MK Bibi (Kadima) agreed that bureaucracy is the problem but said more bureaucracy is not the solution. He said today politicians go to the press and say they are going to do something, and afterwards they decide if they are actually going to follow through. He warned that bypassing mayors when building up areas is dangerous.

MK Cabel (Labor) slammed Netanyahu for blaming the previous administration for the housing shortage after over two years in office. He reminded Netanyahu that Netanyahu assured the MKs that the previous reform in the land authority would result in more housing and said apparently Netanyahu was wrong about that and he is wrong about this too.

MK Hotovely (Likud) revealed that even as an MK she doesn’t have enough money to buy a house and wondered how the general public can afford to do so. She slammed the government for not doing enough to prevent the Arabs, Bedouins and Druze from land grabbing. She reported that Netanyahu will agree to build 5,000 new units in Jerusalem, but not more than that. She called on Netanyahu to raise that number and to increase the number of housing units in Judea and Samaria.

MK Zeev (Shas) called on the government to build up a Jewish Jerusalem and prevent the illegal building of Arabs in eastern Jerusalem. He slammed the illegal building of Arabs throughout the country and called on Israel to do something about it. He warned that the illegal construction is undermining plans for new roads and other infrastructure. He slammed the army for buying land from Bedouins and then letting them return to live on that land days later.

MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) thanked Netanyahu for the bill and expressed his support for it. He said he is looking forward to discussing it in the committee and hopes the bill will eventually lower the prices of apartments to NIS 600,000-700,000.

Finance Minister Steinitz (Likud) blasted the opposition for attacking the Prime Minister instead of letting him present the bill. He explained that in the years 2000 through 2009 the average annual construction of housing units was reduced gradually from 37,000 to 30,000 while the population grew, causing the current shortage of between 60,000-100,000 units. He also blamed the interest rates.  He said this year Israel is building 50,000 new units and, together with the reform of the land authority, this will cause housing prices to go down.

The bill passed its first reading 51-20 and was sent to the House Committee to decide which committee will discuss the bill.

Amendment to the Criminal Procedure Bill

Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chairman Rotem (Y.B.) explained the amendment will expand the enforcement powers of the police, including body searches, identification of criminals and missing people, international police cooperation, the expansion of the criminal database to include more information and the creation of a new DNA database that will be used to identify dead bodies easily.

MK Gal-On (Meretz) explained the bill creates an issue between protecting the public and protecting criminals’ rights. She said she is pleased with the balance that was found in the committee and will support the bill. She said she is worried that the Israeli police will transfer information to the police of other countries who will use that information against Israelis.

MK Khenin slammed the bill for violating citizens’ basic rights by transferring information to foreign police. He said he will object to subsequent bills that have a Big Brother flavor. He said he will not vote on the bill at the request of Speaker Rivlin.

The bill passed its second reading 14-0.

The bill passed its third reading 14-0.

Temporary Provision to an amendment to the Defense Service Bill

Agriculture Minister Noked (Independence) explained the temporary provision will extend the amendment allowing army draftees to serve in the police service or border police instead of serving in the army for another three years until June 30, 2015.

MK Ariel (N.U.) slammed the government for asking our children to serve their mandatory service in the police or border police instead of the military. He blasted the government for forcing people to be policemen if they don’t wish to. He asked Noked to explain to him the logic behind the bill, but Noked refused.

The bill passed its first reading 11-1 and was sent to the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Temporary Provision to an amendment to the Electronic Surveillance to Criminals out on Bail and Criminals on Probation Bill

Minister Noked explained the temporary provision will extend the amendment that allows electronic surveillance of criminals out on bail or on probation for another year.

MK Ariel said this bill is as bad as the last bill but he won’t elaborate at the request of MK Miller (Y.B.)

The bill passed its first reading 10-1 and was sent to the Science and Technology Committee.

Amendment to the Patent Bill

Minister Noked explained the amendment would require the publication of patents within 18 months of the application being sent to the patent authority. She said this bill was requested by the United States government so that Israel would abide by current international patent guidelines.

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

Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill

MK Matalon (Y.B.) explained his amendment would toughen the punishment for abandonment during a traffic accident. He reported that many hit and run criminals receive cushy plea bargains and get out of jail after a few months and this bill will increase the punishment considerably. He hoped this bill will make a person think twice before abandoning a person on the road.

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

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