The Monday session lasted almost nine hours and closed just before 1 AM. Eight bills were discussed, including two highly contested bills. Seven bills were advanced after passing their first readings and one bill became law. Most of the session was spent discussing the Selection of Bar Association Representatives to the Judicial Appointments Committees Bill and the Prohibition of Defamation Bill. You can check out my analysis of the bills under my latest radio show interview link. https://knessetjeremy.com/2011/11/23/knesset-jeremy-radio-interview-on-grunis-and-bar-association-bills/ More importantly, you can read all of the MKs speeches below.

Non-Bills Summary

* Kadima’s no-confidence motion titled ‘The Netanyahu government is destroying the public health system in Israel’ was defeated 38-51 with one MK abstaining and 30 MKs not present.

* Labor and Meretz’s joint no-confidence motion titled ‘The silencing, intimidation, and oppression of free thought in the country of any criticism against the government and the attempt to silence the judiciary, media, academia and civil society organizations’ was defeated 37-54 with 29 MKs not present.

* Hadash, Ra’am-Ta’al and Balad’s joint no-confidence motion titled ‘The onslaught of anti-democratic and racist legislation’ was defeated 33-57 with 30 MKs not present.

* Speaker Rivlin gave a speech marking the 34th anniversary of former Egyptian President Sadat’s visit to Israel and the Knesset.

* House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced that MK Danon (Likud) will replace him in the Justice, Law and Constitution Committee.

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Eilat Free Trade Zone Bill

Funds Committee Chairman Gafni (U.T.J.) explained the amendment would restore the 10% income tax deduction for Eilat residents that was repealed in 2003. He noted that those who earn more than NIS 227,640 a year will not receive the benefit under this amendment. He slammed the government’s legal adviser for opposing the bill and informed the coalition that the government officially does not have a position on the bill.

The bill passed its second reading 91-0.

The bill passed its third reading 92-0.

Finance Minister Steinitz (Likud) thanked the Knesset for supporting the bill.

MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) thanked the Knesset for supporting the bill he co-sponsored in the previous term with MK Sa’ar (Likud).

Amendment to the Selection of Bar Association Representatives to the Judicial Appointments Committees Bill

MK Ilatov (Y.B.) explained his bill would ensure that the two Bar Association representatives on the Judicial Appointments committees will be selected by two thirds of the Bar Association council. He stated that one member will be chosen from the coalition and one member from the opposition. He noted that the two MKs chosen to that committee represent the coalition and opposition.

MK Barakeh (Hadash) said that this bill is a disgrace and charged that this bill was brought at this time in order to grant Justice Minister Neeman a majority in the Judicial Appointments committees. He said it is an anti-democratic bill that is illogical.

MK Swaid (Hadash) said this is another bill in a line of bills that is tailor fitted for a particular person, which clearly defies the democratic spirit. He stated that the bill is another bill of McCarthyism and racism. He warned this bill is part of the revolution against the Supreme Court and it violates the independence of the Bar Association.

MK Khenin (Hadash) said we are among dark days when the government that is elected fights against those who try to keep it down. He warned that we are viewing the end of democracy as the Likud fights against the 11 Supreme Court justices. He quoted Likud’s first Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who was against changing the rules for selecting the Supreme Court.

MK Gal-On (Meretz) slammed the bill as a way to promote corrupt political deals. She asked how a council can select candidates with two thirds of a majority without a deal. She slammed the chauvinism of not selecting female members to the judicial selection committee.

MK Gilon (Meretz) called the bill a donkey and slammed the government for using its power to push through bills which the public disagrees with. He said that he is tired of quoting Begin and Jabotinsky, but he misses their views compared to what the Likud has become today.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) noted that the first draft of the bill that passed its preliminary reading conflicted with the Basic Law: Judges. He disagreed with the view that the changes in the second draft corrected the problem. He expressed hope that this allows the Supreme Court to veto the bill.

MK Cabel (Labor) blasted the bill as another in a line of ticking bombs the government has supported over the last few weeks that is destroying Israel’s democracy. He suggested introducing Legislative Idol to replace Israel/American Idol and turn legislation into a game show where the public gets to vote.

MK Herzog (Labor) charged that the government is silencing the courts and the press. He warned that the public will be hurt the most, not the opposition. He suggested that the lawyers would have chosen different representatives if they had known that this bill would be advanced now since it changes the game in the middle.

MK Braverman (Labor) slammed Justice Minister Neeman for his previous bill which changed the distribution of the Bar Association and for this bill. He charged that Neeman doesn’t respect the legacies of Begin and Jabotinsky.

MK Majadele (Labor) said he wasn’t surprised by this bill or any of the others; rather, he was surprised that his opposition friends expected anything else from the extreme right wingers. He slammed the government and its members, calling them a bunch of racists. He called Foreign Minister Liberman the tail of Olmert’s government.

MK Bielski (Kadima) said that he felt a sense of urgency when he woke up at 5 AM in order to make it to Rotem’s committee meeting that was advancing this bill at 8 AM. He asked why Ilatov’s bill is fast tracked while his bills wait in committee for months. He asked why the government is turning against democracy when their approval ratings and poll standings are at the highest of the term.

MK Zahalka (Balad) called the bill a political one that will seal the deal for selecting another conservative judge to the Supreme Court bench. He stated that the government will change the bill to their advantage in another few years after the next bar association elections if they don’t like the results.

MK Zoabi (Balad) slammed the bill as another in the line of bills aimed to politicize the courts and the press. She said the Israeli courts were damaged before these bills but after them the courts will look a lot worse.

MK Avital (Kadima) slammed the legislative activism targeted at the four leftist liberal strongholds of Israeli democracy: the Supreme Court, the media, academia and the NGOs. He revealed that he has criticisms of those four entities but he feels that these bills go too far. He warned that the arrogance of this legislative activism compared to the judicial activism is a lot more dangerous.

MK Molla (Kadima) called Justice Minister Neeman the navigator hired by Yisrael Beitenu and the extreme right to wreak havoc on the Supreme Court. He warned that the government is fighting against anyone who hinders their ability to rule. He suggested that the MKs should examine eliminating the lawyers’ participation in selecting judges. He said that this Knesset stinks and the government should stop opposing human rights.

MK Shai (Kadima) said those who hold Israel’s democracy dear are going through tough times. He said that the government seeks to control the democracy by destroying the democratic institutions that oppose the government. He said the press, the courts and the NGOs protect Israel’s democracy and the government is slowly removing bricks from Israel’s democratic wall.

MK El-Sana (R.T.) said that all prisoners claim to be innocent and everyone else is guilty, just like crazy people think that everyone outside of the asylum are the crazy ones. He linked those situations to the Knesset who thinks they are sane when in fact they are insane.

MK Sarsur (R.T.) stated that he represents the Palestinian minority within Israel and the courts are meant to protect the minority that he represents. However, he said, they can’t provide justice when the book of laws is racist.

MK Ganaim (R.T.) blasted the bill he called anti-democratic and said it is another bill that takes Israel closer to a dictatorship that controls all branches of government.

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) slammed the government for supporting a bill that was rushed through committee and for which no experts were brought in to show both sides of the coin. He accused the Likud of trying to earn points in the future primaries.

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) asked why when the Sharon government fast tracked the Disengagement Bill through committee without any experts speaking the left was silent but suddenly they are up in arms when they have to drink their own medicine. He recalled that it was Kadima’s Justice Minister Friedman who began the current fight against the Supreme Court and explained the current government simply picked it up.

MK Zeev (Shas) asked how this bill kills Israel’s democracy. He asked how when the Supreme Court cancels Knesset bills and the Knesset fights against it, that is considered anti-democratic. He said that if Israel wants democracy they must copy the American model where there are elections for district judges and the President appoints Supreme Court justices with Senate approval. He slammed the current system where Supreme Court justices choose their successors and said that is anti-democratic.

MK Eldad (N.U.) said we are playing musical chairs over what democracy is. He recalled a few years ago when Kadima was against the activism of the Supreme Court and now suddenly they are supporting it once again. He stated that Netanyahu is weak, has no backbone and is easily persuaded by the number of times the word “fascism” is said in an opposition speech or an article in a leading newspaper.

MK Ariel (N.U.) thanked the Kadima MKs who voted for him and allowed him to become the opposition’s representative to the judicial appointment committees and trusted him to protect the Supreme Court. He said those who think the Supreme Court can veto Knesset’s bills are the ones who are anti-democratic. He noted that the committee is filling 20 court positions and called on the opposition to send him emails with the judges they support or oppose.

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) called this bill a big mistake and said it could be a boomerang that at a later point will be used against them. He slammed the government for changing the majority needed to approve a judge from five to seven members of the committee. He said that is one example of how the government has been had, since now the Supreme Court judges have a veto power.

MK Whbee (Kadima) said that this government appoints judges according to political associations. MK Ariel slammed Whbee for damaging the standing of the Supreme Court by charging that the judges were appointing new judges because of political associations. Whbee rejected Ariel’s claims and said every selection by every committee has been political.

MK Orbach (J.H.) said that Israel is one nation but they are divided into two when it comes to defining everything that happens. He called on the left to divide the pie of the academia, press and judges to give to the right.

MK Plesner (Kadima) asked why the Knesset is arguing into the night over this bill instead of staying up all night trying to solve the housing crisis or improve Israelis’ education.

MK Bar-On (Kadima) said this bill passed its preliminary reading less than a week ago and the express train has brought it up for a vote on its first reading that will be conducted in a few minutes. He slammed MK Rotem for his treatment of MK Gal-On during the committee meeting and suggested he broke the record for using his gavel in one session. He rejected the claim that justices should be selected by their DNA.

Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) expressed government support for the bill. He warned the opposition not to cry wolf with their claims of the death of Israel’s democracy, because one day the public may no longer buy it when there is a real anti-democratic bill.

The bill passed its first reading 45-35 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

MK Molla announced he voted for the bill by mistake. Speaker Rivlin said he wouldn’t change his vote.

Amendment to the Prohibition of Defamation Bill

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained that this bill is a merger of his bill and another bill. He stated that there is a fine line between freedom of expression or the press and freedom of a person’s good name. He slammed journalists who write things against public figures without any facts or reliable sources. He noted that he presented the original Prohibition of Defamation Bill that was passed in 1998 and several of the nine amendments since. He explained this amendment increases the maximum amount a journalist must pay for violating the law from NIS 50,000 to NIS 300,000. He slammed those who oppose the bill and told them that journalists who write false things should not be protected. He stressed that it is the media’s job to write the truth. He reminded everyone that this bill is already on the books and said extending the maximum penalty doesn’t mean the courts will give everyone the maximum. He presented the second bill, sponsored by MK Levin, which forces a journalist to include the response of the public figure that is being charged or slandered in the article. He said that if the journalist refuses to include the public figure’s response in the article the journalist will have to pay over NIS 1 million. He slammed those who suggested that someone who is slandered in an article should not have a chance to give his side of his story. He stressed this bill will raise the standards of journalism and create a balance between a person’s good name and freedom of the press.

MK Gal-On (Meretz) said this is a bad bill that kills investigative reporting on corruption because reliable credible sources are hard to come by. She slammed Sheetrit for trying to silence democracy and slammed Levin for trying to censor the press. She stated that MKs have immunity from the law anyway so this bill seems pointless.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) said that this bill encourages public figures to sue the press and come away with tons of money. He slammed the bill for trying to kill the gray area of journalism and for forcing journalists to print the other side of the story. He warned that if this bill passes he plans to sue all the ultra-orthodox papers for writing slander on him and other gays.

MK Barakeh (Hadash) slammed the press for slandering him when he was charged of crimes but didn’t print that two of the charges were dropped before his trial even started. He said that although he despises the press, he feels this bill will bring Israel towards fascism by limiting the independence of the press and spreading fear through those who oppose the government. He called the bill an assassination of freedom of expression.

MK Gilon (Meretz) said investigative reporting and smaller papers will be hurt most by this bill.

MK Swaid (Hadash) labeled the bill a terrorist bill aimed at killing freedom of expression and freedom of the press. He called Sheetrit and Levin extremists. He said this bill will be great for lawyers who stand to profit from this bill.

MK Khenin (Hadash) called the bill an extreme, wild and murderous sanction on the press. He said that NIS 50,000 was already too high and NIS 300,000 is lunacy and will lead media outlets to drop journalism insurance for their journalists. He said this bill will shut up the public and make regular people think twice before saying something. He called the bill a danger to democracy and a very lethal measure that must be blocked.

MK Agbaria (Hadash) said he thinks this bill is setting the groundwork for something big and that after the bill is passed certain people are going to be brought down. He accused the Likud of moving from Begin to Feiglin and the government for becoming extreme and fascist.

MK Yachimovich (Labor) gave a personal story from when she was with Channel 2, where the channel issued an apology in order to avoid a NIS 20 million law suit in America.

MK Cabel (Labor) said he understood Levin, who is the middle of a nationalist blitz of bills, but he can’t understand Sheetrit, who is supposed to be a moderate. He accused the bill of shutting up the press and promoting positive pieces.

MK Herzog (Labor) said criticism is legitimate and democratic. He slammed the government for not understanding that and for trying to silence all criticism. He told Sheetrit that although he means well he is harming the watchdog of Israel’s democracy. He said the fourth branch of power and government is the press and the government is trying to silence them.

MK Braverman (Labor) told Sheetrit that his bill is dangerous and said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

MK Zoabi (Balad) said that the NGOs are being punished for exposing what the press refused to expose. She stated that the press barely criticizes the government as it is. She said she doesn’t understand why the government feels this bill is necessary since the press is silent when it comes to the crimes committed against the Palestinian Arabs in Israel and outside of it. She said she is against this bill because the government is for this bill.

MK Molla (Kadima) said he supports Sheetrit’s bill but not Levin’s. He said he can’t support a bill that is proposed by the extreme right and said that Israel’s democracy is in danger. He called on the press to be fair and hopefully that would help them avoid these type of measures. He said he prefers freedom of the press over this extreme measure.

MK Shai (Kadima) stated this bill is silencing the press. He said the public should oppose the bill and slammed the majority of Israelis who support it.

MK Ganaim (R.T.) slammed the bill because it increases the penalty and said that bills that increase the penalty don’t work. He blasted the bill as an attempt to cut off the Israeli democracy’s head. He attacked the bill as a message to scare the media and public.

MK Avraham Balila (Kadima) said this bill will attack bloggers and facebook users. She called the bill a fascist embarrassment and slammed her fellow party member Sheetrit. She said that freedom of expression and the press is more important than the right to a person’s good name and protection against false slander.

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said the worst part about the bill is the timing. He also criticized the merging of the two bills and rejected the idea that the two can be talked about as one package. He blasted the bill as anti-democratic and said that he will vote against it.

MK Orlev (J.H.) announced that he understands the bill will be watered down in committee and that the chairman plans on splitting the bills into two. He said this bill will heal the sickness of the many lies in the press without harming democracy. He called on the MKs to let the bill advance and reserve their judgments for the final version of the bill.

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) said that today he cancelled his subscription to the leftist Ha’aretz newspaper. He asked why certain MKs are asking to allow the press to do whatever they want without clear consequences. He said this bill is needed and well deserved. He called on investigative reporting to print facts and not rumors.

MK Zeev (Shas) said that journalists don’t care who they hurt and write things about public figures like they are not human beings. He said journalists violate human rights against people they slander. He invited people to learn with him about slandering from the Jewish books of Chofetz Chaim.

MK Hotovely (Likud) said that she supports freedom of expression and protection of the minorities. She slammed the press for losing touch and the balance between freedom of expression and reporting the truth. She said that this bill will harm the smaller papers which are the nationalist papers that have small pockets. She said that despite that she feels this bill is important and she will support it. She rejected the statement that public figures should just take it when lies are printed about them that hurt their public opinion.

MK Orbach (J.H.) said that certain MKs and ministers have such a bad name to begin with that a NIS 300,000 bonus from shutting down a paper is ridiculous. He blasted the bill and told Levin that he must have gone nuts. He announced that he will not support this bill and will embrace the punishment from the coalition. He warned this bill will kill the religious and nationalist papers, not the leftists.

MK Whbee (Kadima) said that he understands that all Sheetrit’s bill does is raise the punishment from NIS 50,000 to NIS 300,000. He said that many Kadima MKs will vote for that bill if the bills are split into two as Rotem promises.

MK Plesner (Kadima) slammed Justice Minister Neeman, who he said acts as Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and not as a minister. He said that because Neeman is not an elected official he doesn’t have to answer to anyone except the person who appointed him – Netanyahu. He said it is a problem that Israel is the only democracy without a constitution and that Neeman and Rotem can define democracy according to their agenda.

MK Ariel (N.U.) told Plesner that under this bill if he didn’t have immunity that he would be sued for spreading lies about a minister. He said the problem is that certain MKs are spreading lies. He stressed that the courts decide if a person is guilty and if they receive a fine of 50,000, 300,000 or 3,000. He slammed the Kadima MKs for accusing Supreme Court President Beinisch of corruption and spreading lies. He stated that if people weren’t spreading lies these types of bills wouldn’t have been proposed.

MK Peretz (Labor) said that every politician has found himself in the situation that lies are being spread about them across the front pages of newspapers and leading television news shows. He said although the press needs to change this bill is not the way to do it. He stated the press must change from within and the Knesset can’t force it to through these types of laws. He suggested to the press to stop hiring guys in their young 20s who have no idea what they are writing about and no clue about politics or government. He revealed he will vote against the bill.

MK Bielski (Kadima) said that the press probably deserves this bill because they haven’t regulated themselves when it comes to printing false articles. He said that despite the fact that the press deserves it, the government is doing it for the wrong reasons, so he will vote against it.

MK Rotem (Y.B.) asked the Kadima MKs why they are attacking the government for these bills when they didn’t even read the bills. He noted that it was two Kadima MKs Sheetrit and Yisrael Hasson who sponsored the two bills. He said that Sheetrit wanted NIS 500,000 but needed to accept Levin and Hasson’s NIS 300,000 when the bills were merged. He revealed that he saved Sheetrit’s bill, which was opposed by the government, by merging it with Levin’s; however, he is willing to split the bills up in order to watch Kadima kill Sheetrit’s bill and prove their hypocrisy.

MK Ilatov (Y.B.) wished everyone a good morning. He asked why the argument is over NIS 250,000 and not over journalism’s ethics which have been lowered year after year. He said that if the journalists refuse to regulate their ethics somebody needs to. He revealed that the previous bill that was discussed, which he sponsored, was mentioned in about 200 articles and only two articles asked him for his response.

MK Bar-On (Kadima) said the legal issue is that someone will now be able to receive NIS 300,000 without proving that he lost money due to the slander. He said that he is against every part of the bill and called on everyone to oppose it.

Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) expressed government support for the bill. He said that the law says that if you don’t lie you don’t have to pay anyone. He added that the bill doesn’t expand those eligible to sue or force the judges to give a certain sentence. He said it is heartless to put wives and children through embarrassment because of lies. Speaker Rivlin announced he would vote against the bill and defy the government’s wishes. Erdan argued with Rivlin for several minutes.

The bill passed its first reading 42-31 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Amendment to the Value Added Tax Bill

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) explained the amendment would change the VAT rules for companies that have business deals consisting of NIS 15 million a year or more. He added the amendment also increases penalties for companies that don’t comply with the VAT rules.

MK Khenin warned that turning the Supreme Court judges into politicians leads to situations like George Bush being selected as the President of the United States over Al Gore, who received more votes.

MK Sheetrit said this bill is a good bill and hoped that it will help small businesses compete against bigger companies. He suggested that businesses that make less than NIS 70,000 a year should not have to file a long tax return and it should be one page. He asked how a company that makes less than NIS 70,000 can pay their accountant NIS 12,000 just to avoid breaking the law.

The bill passed its first reading 17-0 and was sent to the Funds Committee.

Temporary Provision Amendment to the Security Service Bill

Minister Peled (Likud) explained the temporary provision allows draftees to be drafted to police service instead of army. He stated this extension will last until the end of 2015.

MK Ariel revealed that no committee meeting discussed the extension of the temporary provision. He said he opposes drafting soldiers into police service and told the government to fund the police department and pay them normal wages, not the draftees’ NIS 300 monthly salary.

MK Sheetrit recalled when he approved 1,500 soldiers to be transferred to the traffic police. He recalled the point was to fund 250 squad cars to increase traffic control. He said he was disappointed that the police chose to use the money for other causes and never purchased the cars.

MK Ben Ari said that army is a service to the country and the police is a place of work. He said our children should be sent to the army, not the police. He noted that religious policemen are discriminated against compared to the army, where they have rights. He said that it is wrong for the country to save money by sending free labor to the police and lower the number of active soldiers that are protecting our borders.

Minister Peled responded that it is a just bill and that soldiers should be used in other areas besides security.

The bill passed its first reading 13-2 and was sent to the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Amendment to the Securities Bill

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen explained that the amendment regulates the obligations of co-signer certificates and contracts.

MK Sheetrit said that most co-signers can’t pay their obligations so this bill is pretty irrelevant.

The bill passed its first reading 12-0 and was sent to the Funds Committee.

Amendment to the Regional Councils Bill

Minister Nahari (Shas) explained the amendment would force all regional councils to have the same date for general elections starting in 2018. He added that the bill shortens the hours that army voting stations are open.

MK Sheetrit supported the bill and took partial credit claiming it was his idea back when he was Interior Minister. He called for computer elections for the regional councils. He said that would prevent the dead from voting and elections could be called within 30 days.

The bill passed its first reading 11-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

Amendment to the Rights of Crime Victims Bill

MK Bielski explained his amendment would increase the punishment for abandonment after a car accident. He said that hit and runs have become an epidemic and expressed hope this bill would put an end to it. He thanked the MKs who stayed to vote on the bill at 1 AM.

MK Sheetrit congratulated Bielski on the bill and expressed his support. He said in certain states in America a hit and run is considered murder.

The bill passed its first reading 7-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

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