The Wednesday session lasted about eight hours. Twelve bills were discussed. One bill was advanced after passing its preliminary reading, one was turned into a motion, seven were withdrawn to avoid defeat and three were defeated. Four motions were discussed, two of which were sent to committee, and Prime Minister Netanyahu endured his monthly 40 MK signature discussion. The bill advanced would regulate the recognized national service institution functions. The bills defeated would have reduced the VAT on basic food items and reduced the real estate tax for purchasing a home.


Non-Bills Summary

* Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence), Justice Minister Neeman, Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) and National Infrastructure Minister Landau (Y.B.) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.

* Speaker Rivlin greeted the former Speaker of Tonga with a warm speech.

* A 40 MK signature forced session on the topic of ‘the Netanyahu government’s failure in the political, economic and social sectors’ was discussed by 16 MKs, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Livni. Netanyahu’s speech was accepted by a 38-29 vote.

* A motion on the 2010 Poverty and Social Gaps Report was discussed by 9 MKs and Culture and Sport Minister Livnat (Likud). It was sent to committee by a 9-0 vote.

* A motion on the shortage of foreign workers in construction was discussed by two MKs and Minister Livnat. It was sent to committee by a 4-0 vote.

* A motion on the closure of radio station “Voice of Peace” was discussed by 2 MKs and Minister Livnat. The motion was defeated 3-4.

* A motion on the state of education in Israel was discussed by MK Wilf (Independence) and Deputy Education Minister Moses without a vote.

* Deputy Education Minister Moses (U.T.J.) answered two queries toward the end of the session.


Bills Summary

Veterans’ Widows Pension Bill

MK Ariel (N.U.) explained that his original bill would provide the widow of a solider a small pension. He accused the government of trying to prolong the passing of this bill in order to save money because as time goes on more widows die. He slammed the government for trying to buy time but agreed to postpone the vote on his bill for one week to give the government more time to come around.

Motion/Amendment to the Schools Inspection Bill

MK Gafni (U.T.J.) expressed support for MK Ariel’s bill and slammed the government for not supporting it today. He went on to talk about his bill and blasted the government for not treating public schools the same way they treat private religious schools in regards to school inspections. He revealed that there are many safety features that are requirements for religious schools but not for state schools and gave a few examples. He slammed the government for opposing his bill that would bring equality on the grounds that it cost NIS ten million.

Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) explained that the safety problems of public schools are the problems of the local municipalities, as opposed to private schools that are the responsibility of the government. He agreed that this situation leads to problems in certain public schools and suggested turning the bill into a motion. Gafni agreed.

The motion passed 21-1 and was sent to the Education Committee.

Amendment to the Dead Sea Tender Bill

MK Matalon (Y.B.) explained his amendment would create a fund for the reconstruction and development of the Dead Sea region. He explained the money would come from the taxes collected from Dead Sea businesses. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill for two to three weeks until the government agrees to support it.

Amendment to the Economic Arrangements Bill to Achieve Budget Goals and Economic Policy for Fiscal Year 2002

MK Matalon explained his amendment would create a fund for the protection of the Dead Sea coast and overall environment. He explained that this bill goes hand and hand with the previous bill. He said that the Dead Sea does not belong to the finance or tourism ministries; rather, it belongs to the Israeli citizens. He warned that letting the Dead Sea die would be suicide for the Israeli economy and something must be done soon. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill for two to three weeks until the government agrees to support it.

Amendment to the National Service bill

MK Elkin (Likud) explained his amendment would regulate the functions of recognized national service institutions.

Bureaucracy Minister Eitan (Likud) shouted at Elkin, who was ignoring him, and demanded that he listen to his response. He expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 33-30 with one MK abstaining and was sent to the House Committee to decide which committee will discuss the bill further.

Amendment to the Municipal Taxes and Government Fees Ordinance Bill

MK Swaid (Hadash) explained his amendment would create a fund for dividing the money and assets a municipality receives from government agencies. He said the bill will also evenly distribute the pool of municipal taxes across all municipalities, despite the fact that the some cities might have put more money into the pool. He said that the tent protesters are calling for this type of communism, which will put an end to the rich cities. He slammed the rich municipalities that are sitting on a combined NIS 1.5 billion surplus and called on them to give that money to the bankrupt Arab villages.

Public Bodies’ Property Tax Money Distribution into Fund Bill

MK Zahalka (Balad) explained his bill is very similar to Swaid’s and called on the government to support both. He noted that his bill is a copy of the governments bill that was never brought up to a vote.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) said it is a good bill with bad timing. He expressed government opposition to the bills and asked Swaid and Zahalka to postpone the vote on the bills to a later date. They both agreed.

Two Amendments to the Real Estate Property Tax Bill

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained his amendment would eliminate the purchase tax for buying a first apartment. He stressed the bill would be helpful for new couples.

MK Barakeh (Hadash) explained his similar amendment would reduce the purchase tax, as opposed to eliminating it. He slammed the government for eliminating the selling tax on real estate for a first apartment while keeping the purchase tax in tact. He said that the government is acting like they prefer a sellers’ market as opposed to a buyers’ market.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen explained that any apartment under NIS 1,139,320 is tax free and for first time home buyers apartments under NIS 1.35 million are tax free until the end of 2012. He called on the Knesset to oppose the two bills since the MKs proposed bills that are already law.

MK Sheetrit explained his bill would not be a temporary order and would not end after 2012 and therefore the Knesset should support the bill.

The first bill was defeated 34-46.

The second bill was defeated 34-46.

Amendment to the Securities Bill

MK Sheetrit said that tycoons who borrow government money and don’t pay it back shouldn’t be allowed to pocket any profits until they pay off their debt to the tax payers. He read off a list of current tycoons who each make millions of shekels a year yet claim their companies don’t have the money to pay back their debt to the government. Prime Minister Netanyahu asked Sheetrit to postpone the vote to let him study the bill personally. Sheetrit agreed.

Amendment to the Value Added Tax Bill

MK Sheetrit explained his amendment would reduce the tax rate on basic food products from 16% to 8%. He said this bill will help the poor afford to feed their children.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen said that lowering the VAT will help the rich and the poor and therefore it defeats Sheetrit’s purpose. He said there are other methods to assist the poor without giving a tax break to the rich and suggested Sheetrit try
something else.

MK Sheetrit said the benefit of lowering the VAT on a few basic foods will benefit the poor and that outweighs the loss from rich tax payers on this issue.

The bill was defeated 40-48 with two MKs present and not voting (Deputy Speaker Levi-Abekasis (Y.B.) and MK Schneller (Kadima).

Amendment to the ID Card Maintenance and Presenting Bill

MK Bielski (Kadima) explained his amendment would allow a drivers license to be a substitute for the national identification card in all cases. He said that in America people use driver licenses for identification purposes and there is no reason Israel shouldn’t do the same. He agreed to postpone the bill for a week in order to gather more government support.