The first Wednesday of the winter session lasted about nine hours. 23 bills were discussed. Eight bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, nine bills were defeated and six votes were postponed in order to avoid defeat.

The jam-packed day had a little bit of everything: a special session for a fallen minister; a heated exchange between the opposition and coalition; a series of socialist bills; and Y.B. MKs Miller and Rotem violating coalition discipline.

Non-Bills Summary

* Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) answered an urgent query to start the session.

* A special session in memory of former Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze’evi, of blessed memory, was held on the tenth anniversary of his assasination. Speaker Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Opposition Leader Livni and MK Eldad, a former Moledet MK, all gave very warm speeches marking the occasion.

* Three of the four motions of the day were passed and sent for further discussion in various committees. ‘The rising cost of living and rising electricity prices’ passed 19-0; ‘20% of Israeli households are under the care of social services’ passed 7-0; and ‘Women in the public sphere’ passed 4-0. A motion on the Foreign Minister’s remarks against the Chairman of the PA was defeated 3-6.

* Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon (Y.B.) answered three queries later in the session.

Bills Summary

Authorized Engineers and Technicians Bill

MK Haim Katz (Likud) explained his original bill would regulate the occupations of engineers and technicians under Israeli law.
Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 19-0 and was sent to the Labor Committee.

Academic Training Council for Industry Education Bill

MK Miller (Y.B.) explained his original bill would promote the education of industry-related occupations through an academic training council to which the government would give certain powers.

Education Minister Sa’ar explained the government is not taking an official position on the bill and that coalition MKs may vote as they see fit. He stated that Miller’s bill, should it pass, should be discussed with MK Katz’s bill and merged into one. He warned MK Miller not to try to keep the bills separate.

MK Miller stressed the government has no place in determining which committee will discuss the bill and therefore he will be able to avoid merging the bill.

Coalition Chairman Elkin (Likud) warned Miller that he doesn’t have the votes in the House Committee to pull off his plan.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 24-5 and was sent to the House Committee to determine which committee will discuss the bill further, following MK Miller’s decision to ignore Sa’ar and Elkin’s warnings.

Amendment to the Consumer Protection Bill

MK Maklev (U.T.J.) explained the amendment would grant the consumer reimbursement of bank fees for excess debit transactions on ongoing payments at the date of the return. He added that he withdrew the second part of the bill at the government’s request.

Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) expressed government support for the bill.

The amendment passed its preliminary reading 17-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment to the Liability of State Bill

MK Orlev (J.H.) explained his amendment would prohibit a person from an enemy country from suing the State of Israel.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bill.

MK Khenin (Hadash) opposed the bill on the grounds that the State is liable for crimes committed against its enemies and removing that liability will harm Israel’s democracy. He added this will push Israel’s enemies to sue Israel in international court because the Israeli courts will be closed to them. He said it is hypocritical for Israel to refuse the legitimacy of international courts and to close the door of Israeli courts.

MK Orlev said this bill is a western democratic bill that was passed in England, Canada and the United States. He said Israel should stop acting like a sucker and stressed terrorists have no place suing Israel.

The amendment passed its preliminary reading 36-15 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Amendment to the Telecommunications and Broadcasting Bill

MK Shama (Likud) explained his amendment would prohibit the cell phone companies from charging a cancellation fee when a costumer switches providers. Shama said that the new zero rate would match that of television and satellite providers and that all telecommunication companies are created equal. He stressed that a costumer should not be penalized for upgrading to a better provider.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bill.

The amendment passed its preliminary reading 33-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Two Amendments to the Parties Bill

MK Hotovely (Likud) explained that her amendment would prohibit Israeli citizens from belonging to more than one political party. She expressed hope that this will help clean up Israeli politics and stop people from trying to hijack rival parties.

MK Orlev explained his amendment would place sanctions on people who belong to more than one party. He said it is impossible for a democracy to allow its citizens to belong to more than one party and impact the primaries of multiple parties.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bills and stressed it is in Israel’s interest that these bills pass.

The first bill passed 48-0 and the second bill passed 50-0.

The bills were merged and sent to the Justice Committee.

Three Basic Laws: Social Rights Bill

MK Gal-On (Meretz) said that the Israeli public sobered up this summer and rejected capitalism. She stated Israelis want social justice and socialism. She slammed the rich and privileged. She blasted the Trachtenberg Commission. She attacked the private market, calling them the source of the problem and not the solution. She stressed the solution is a new Basic Law that will protect Israelis’ social rights. She charged the government isn’t spending Israeli taxes on Israelis; rather, they are spending it on settlers and settlements. She told the government that she expects Israel to provide the kind of social rights South Africa gives their citizens.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) explained his Basic Law is basically the same as Gal-On’s Basic Law. He said this bill is the first of a series of socialist bills that are being brought up for a vote today in the spirit of the tent protests. He slammed the Knesset for not passing a Basic Law since 1992. He said the tent protesters are demanding social justice and this Basic Law will provide social justice.

MK Peretz (Labor) said the problem is Israel doesn’t have a constitution. He said that the decision was made to write the constitution chapter by chapter as Basic Laws. He expressed hope that this Basic Law, which he first proposed in 1997, will be approved today. He slammed former Ministers Lapid (Shinui) and Deri (Shas) for torpedoing his past attempts at passing this bill.

Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) slammed the Basic Laws that were just presented. He said the government is listening to the cries of the people and does not want to limit its power to combat Israel’s financial problems. He suggested postponing the vote on the Basic Laws in order for the government to convince the religious parties to support its own version of a Basic Law. The MKs rejected Erdan’s offer and Erdan instructed the coalition to defeat the bill.

MK Molla (Kadima) said he is sick of the government postponing votes on important bills. He slammed the government for trying to buy time. Speaker Rivlin blasted the MKs for making the bill political instead of accepting Erdan’s offer.

MK Gilon (Meretz) said Israel should be a socialist state. He said capitalism is against both the bible and the declaration of independence. He said what is great about this generation is that it is asking what is the country doing for me, instead of asking what they are supposed to do for their country.

MK Peretz said this is one of the most important bills he has ever signed. He praised Netanyahu for releasing Shalit and asked him to vote with him today.

The first bill was defeated 45-58.

The second bill was defeated 41-53.

The third bill was defeated 44-54.

Basic Law: The Right to Housing Bill

MK Khenin said the housing crisis caused the tent revolution from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat. He slammed the government for privatizing Israel’s land and for limiting public housing. He said that a house is not a privilege and his Basic Law would grant every Israeli citizen the right to a house. He said the government is responsible for housing all of its citizens. He slammed the government for prioritizing settlement roads over public housing. He called for social justice.

Justice Minister Neeman slammed Khenin for not submitting the Basic Law for the government’s approval and instead submitting it to the Knesset for his own political motivations. Neeman hinted he might have supported it and found the budget for it. He opposed the bill on the grounds that speeches don’t solve problems and that this was the first time this term an MK decided to bypass the government on a bill.

MK Khenin rejected Neeman’s argument and said it would have been a waste of time to wait for the government’s position on a bill they would oppose no matter what.

The bill was defeated 40-54.

Amendment to the Value Added Tax Bill

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained his amendment would allow young couples to buy their first apartment VAT-free if it is a new apartment that costs less than a million and a half shekels. He slammed the government for not doing more for young couples and rejected hecklers who asked why he didn’t propose this bill last term when he was the Finance Minister.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) slammed Sheetrit for submitting bills when he is in the opposition that he defeated when he was in the coalition. MK Yoel Hasson heckled Cohen and was called to order by Deputy Speaker Akunis. Cohen added that there is no VAT on second-hand apartments and this bill could raise the demand for new apartments which would raise the housing prices even higher. He noted that the cost of the bill is NIS 1.4 billion per year. He suggested postponing the bill for two months or changing it to a motion. Sheetrit declined.

The bill was defeated 32-44.

Property Tax Reductions for Students Bill

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) accused Deputy Speaker Akunis (Likud) of prolonging the vote on the previous bill in order to allow more coalition MKs to enter the room and defeat the bill. Kadima’s MKs heckled Akunis. Akunis denied the charges and demanded Hasson apologize. Pandemonium broke out and MKs from the opposition and coalition stood up and started screaming for seven straight minutes. Speaker Rivlin came in and from the side microphone demanded that the opposition regain order. Hasson slammed the coalition for playing dirty tricks.

Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) noted that MK Hasson didn’t present a bill and instead spent ten minutes screaming at Deputy Speaker Akunis. Yishai confessed he agreed to the bill in principle but budget restraints force him to oppose the bill. He revealed that he put together a committee to examine phasing in this bill slowly. He asked Hasson to postpone the vote on the bill for two months and give his committee time to find solutions. MK Hasson accepted postponing the bill for two months.

Amendment to the Planning and Building Bill

MK Edery (Kadima) explained his amendment would require the government to set aside a percentage of all residential projects for small apartments (70-80 square meters). He called on the government to bring their own version if they don’t like his.

Interior Minister Yishai said that Edery’s speech touched him and he agrees with him in principle. He explained the problem is that mayors don’t agree to small apartments and would reject any new residential project that came with small apartments attached. He said that he is working on new protocols that are very similar to Edery’s bill and asked him to postpone the vote on the bill in order to see if the new protocols are implemented. MK Edery agreed to wait two months to see if the minister’s protocols are implemented.

Amendment to the Housing Loan for Eligible Veterans Bill

MK Plesner (Kadima) said his amendment would allow veterans to be eligible for government housing loans and mortgages for building their first home.

Environment Minister Erdan said the government can’t meet the budget restraint of this bill and therefore is against it. He noted Israelis are in good shape compared to Europe and mentioned in Spain fifty percent of young people are unemployed.

MK Plesner responded to Erdan that if the government opposes this bill they are voting against one of the Trachtenberg Commission’s findings. He slammed the current situation in which religious Israelis receive more benefits than secular Israelis.

The bill was defeated 23-46.

Amendment to the Rent and Lending Bill

MK Molla presented, as he typically does every six months, his amendment that would limit raising rent. He said the capitalistic market has brought upon Israelis crazy prices and said government regulation on rent is the solution.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that this bill will cause investors to stop renting out their apartments. He warned the courts are tied up in so many cases that this bill would crash the courts. He stressed that overall this would hurt the landlord which would end up hurting the renter. He warned that trying to regulate the free market further could exacerbate the real estate crisis. He recalled the British Mandate regulations on rent, which made it almost impossible for Jews to rent apartments. He concluded that the government has rejected this bill before but is willing to turn the bill into a motion. Molla rejected the offer.

The bill was defeated 29-39.

Amendment to the Social Security Bill

MK Solodkin (Kadima) explained her amendment would change the qualifying period for students to receive government maternity benefits. She stated the current situation makes it very difficult for students to qualify because they haven’t been in the workforce long enough to qualify for certain privileges. She added that single mothers would receive additional privileges under the bill. She called on the government to get with the socialist program. She agreed to withdraw the bill and postpone the vote to try to lobby government support.

Perpetuating the Memory of the Victims of the Massacre in Kafr Qasim Bill

MK Khenin explained his bill is proposed every year during the week before the massacre of Kafr Qasim, which occurred 55 years ago, in order to memorialize the victims.

MK Barakeh (Hadash) called on Israel to take responsibility for the massacre and to educate every child in Israel of the racist murders of Israeli Arabs in 1956.

Deputy Education Minister Moses (U.T.J.) noted that this bill has been defeated every year for three consecutive terms and this year will be no different. He said that the Knesset can’t tell the Education Minister what to put in the curriculum and the government has no reason to fund NGOs that teach the subject because the government doesn’t fund NGOs.

MK Agbaria (Hadash) slammed the formal response from Moses and called on the government to take responsibility for the massacre. He slammed Israel as a racist country and Israelis as racist people.

The bill was defeated 8-33. MK Akunis announced he voted for the bill by mistake.

Amendment to the Social Security Bill

MK Bibi (Kadima) slammed Deputy Akunis for his behavior earlier in the session. He explained his amendment would make the time veterans spend in reserve duty not count toward the veterans’ two years of preferred work. He said that he agreed to postpone the vote on the bill for a week in order to allow the government time to examine the bill a little longer.

Prohibiting a Concession Agreement on Territory with Totalitarian Regime Countries Bill

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) warned that peace cannot be achieved with enemies and our peace with Egypt is disappearing after only 30 years. He noted that people who spoke out against the Shalit deal were silenced or lynched by the media. He explained his bill prohibits Israel from giving land to any country that doesn’t have more than one political party. He asked if a cold peace of 30 years is worth giving away our oil fields in the Sinai.

Environment Minister Erdan said it is impossible to give land to Syria when their totalitarian regime is about to fall since there won’t be peace and it would harm Israel’s security. He said this bill would harm Israel internationally. He said since there is no land for peace deal on the horizon it isn’t worth the fall out from our allies and, therefore, the government is against it for now.

MK Eldad (N.U.) noted that many in Egypt claim the peace deal with Israel is not valid since it was signed by a dictator and was not the will of the people. He said this is one of the most logical bills to hit the Knesset floor and should be approved.

The bill was defeated 4-16. Coalition MK Rotem (Y.B.) chose to break with the coalition position and voted for the bill.

Amendment to the Housing Loans Bill

MK Cabel (Labor) praised his socialist bill. He explained his amendment would place an obligation on the State to contact those who are failing on their State-funded mortgages and inform them of their rights. He said this bill doesn’t cost any money, it simply requires the government to inform the citizens who are failing on their mortgages on how they might save their houses according to the laws that are already in place.

Deputy Speaker Vaknin (Shas) called for a vote since a minister was not there to give the government response.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 11-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Discount for Students in Public Transport Fares Bills

MK Tibi (R.T.) explained his original bill would provide a fifty percent discount on all public transportation for students. He said that the social justice protests have brought this issue into the headlines. He agreed to postpone the vote on his bill for a few weeks in order to receive government support at a later date.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) noted that the opposition’s bills throughout the long day were meant to shake the government into waking up and smelling the social justice in the air. He praised public transportation and claimed his similar bill would reduce the number of cars in Israel. He warned that Israel’s public transportation is among the worst in the western world and most Israelis choose instead to use their cars.  He agreed to postpone the vote on his bill for a few weeks in order to receive government support at a later date.

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