The Wednesday Knesset session lasted six hours. 17 bills were discussed. Eight bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, two were defeated, three were turned into motions and four were not brought up for a vote in order to avoid defeat. The bills advanced will exempt old age homes from municipal taxes, increase funding to the Dead Sea area, allow citizens in national service to vote near their workplace, allow Jews to stay in Israel for up to five years without making aliyah and prohibit alternative therapists from engaging in sexual relations with patients. Seven of nine motions were passed to the various committees for further discussion.


Non-Bills Summary

* Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) and Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon (Y.B.) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.

* Nine motions were discussed. Seven were sent to various committees for further discussion by the votes 9-0, 8-0, 8-0, 5-0, 6-0, 4-0 and 4-0. Two were not voted on.

* House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced which disputed bills will be discussed in which committees. He also announced changes in committee assignments: MKs Cabel (Labor), Avraham Balila (Kadima) and Whbee (Kadima) will replace MKs Ben Simon (Labor), Edery (Kadima) and Tirosh (Kadima) in the joint House and Finance subcommittee; and MKs Herzog (Labor) and Orlev (J.H.) will replace MKs Cabel and Orbach (J.H.) in the joint Justice and Finance subcommittee.

Bills Summary

Three Amendments to the Municipal Taxes and Government Taxes Ordinance Bill

MK Haim Katz (Likud) explained his amendment would provide a municipal tax exemption for centers for people with disabilities that are funded by the Labor and Welfare Ministry. He stated that hostels and dorms that house the disabled will also benefit from the same tax break under the bill.

MK Gilon (Meretz) explained his similar amendment would also include disabled mental patients.

MK Barakeh (Hadash) explained that his similar amendment shared parts of the first two amendments.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) expressed government support for the bills as long as the three bills are merged into one in the committee.

The bills passed their preliminary readings 20-0, 24-0 and 28-0 and were sent to the Welfare Committee.

Two Amendments to the Economic Arrangements Law to Achieve Budget Goals and Economic Policy for Fiscal Year 2002

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen explained the first amendment would fund Dead Sea coast protection and the second amendment would create a fund for rehabilitation and development of the Dead Sea area. He noted that both bills were submitted by MK Matalon (Y.B.) and expressed government support for the bills.

Tourism Minister Misezhnikov (Y.B.) said he was proud to fund both amendments as part of his ministry. He went on to speak about the troubles the Dead Sea faces. He said he is proud to be fighting for the Dead Sea and called these two Matalon Bills the logical next step.

The two amendments passed their preliminary readings 43-0 and 45-0 and were sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment to the Elections Bill

MK Orlev (J.H.) explained his amendment would allow those serving in national service to vote in designated voting stations near their place of service so they don’t have to travel 100 km to get back home.

Justice Minister Neeman praised the bill and expressed government support.

MK Gal-On (Meretz) opposed the bill and called it a sectoral bill that is meant to bring out more national religious votes. She said that if Orlev really cared about the entire population, he would have expanded the bill to cover university and college students.

Speaker Rivlin called for electronic biometric voting that would allow every citizen to vote wherever they wanted.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 47-6 with one MK abstaining and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Obligation to Inform about the Presence of Security Cameras and Restrictions on Providing Information Bill/Motion

MK Swaid (Hadash) explained that his original bill would require a person under surveillance to be notified by someone who is playing big brother. He said that he expected the government to support this bill because they supported citizens’ privacy in the latest amendment to the slander bill. He stated that not telling someone about the presence of a security camera is a violation of their freedom of expression because they would act differently if they knew there was a camera. He said that his bill will protect the privacy of customers and said he didn’t see any reason to have installed secret security cameras in businesses.

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that the bill applies to all public buildings and will make police work much harder if criminals know they are being videotaped.

MK Swaid said he was willing to turn the bill into a motion and discuss giving security forces an exemption after a committee discussion.

The motion passed 49-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

Amendment to the Foreign Workers Bill/Motion

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) explained his amendment would increase the minimum age of foreign workers to 35. He noted that foreign workers who work in construction or agriculture would be exempt from this change and said the bill is mostly aimed at the nursing industry. He explained that many young nurses choose to leave their job for another job or find love and leave their original job. He said it is unacceptable for the country to bring in young foreign workers who then choose to skip out on their jobs. He stated that older foreign workers come to Israel to support their families back home and are a lot more stable. He agreed to turn the bill into a motion to avoid defeat and try to convince the government to support it in committee.

The motion passed 28-2 and was sent to the Labor Committee.

Two Amendments to the National Health Insurance Bill

MK Gilon explained his amendment would increase funding of the basket of health services and medications by 2% annually. He warned that because the population is getting older the government needs to take his amendment very seriously. He noted that many government ministers support his bill.

MK Gal-On explained that her amendment was word for word the same as Gilon’s. Speaker Rivlin screamed at Meretz’s Faction Manager Ronit Yaacobi for allowing two of her MKs to submit the same exact bill and misusing Knesset protocol. MK Gal-On defended her Faction Manager and screamed at Speaker Rivlin. The two got into an argument on Knesset protocol until Likud Faction Manager Aliza Barashi pointed out to them both that Gal-On’s time was up.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) noted that he was the first person to raise the health basket funding in over a decade and he expressed pride in the NIS 300 million budget. He said that although he finds the health basket an integral part of his ministry, he can’t agree to an annual 2% increase at the expense of the other important items that would be hurt by this measure. He expressed government opposition to the bill.

MK Gilon said he wants the government’s medication of what they see from the inside can’t be seen from the outside. He said that if he had that prescription he would be a happy man.

The bills were defeated 24-42 and 22-41.

Fund for Dividing Revenue from Natural Resources toward Education, Health and Welfare Bill

MK Tirosh (Kadima) explained that her original bill would create a fund from the money the government receives from its natural gas reserves. She stated the fund would be spent on education, health and welfare investments. She went on to criticize the government for the extremism of the ultra-orthodox and settlers. She warned that this type of behavior against women and soldiers will turn Israel into the Taliban. She got into a shouting match with MK Regev (Likud) for several minutes and went on to argue with MK Zeev (Shas) and MK Ariel (N.U.).

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen explained the government asked MK Tirosh to delay the vote on her bill for a month in order to allow the government to present its bill. He said the two bills will be passed together and merged in committee.

Amendment to the Civil Defense Bill

MK Shai (Kadima) explained that his amendment would force the government to fund the distribution of gas mask kits to the entire population. He warned that only 55% of Israelis have gas masks and that the Iranian threat is real and should not be taken lightly. He said it would only cost NIS 1 billion to fund the project. He asked what would happen if 40% of the MKs didn’t have gas masks and were told to go find shelter.

Intelligence Minister Meridor (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill citing budget restraints. He said that by 2018 all Israelis should have gas masks and that it is only a matter of time until it is implemented. He noted that the masks don’t exist and need to be produced before being handed out. He suggested turning the bill into a motion.

MK Shai agreed to turn the bill into a motion in order to convince the government in committee to move up the 2018 time table so that Israelis don’t die unnecessarily at the hands of Iran.

The motion passed 42-3 and was sent to the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.

MK Regev spent five minutes defending her positions in response to MK Tirosh, who had attacked her in the discussion of the previous bill.

Amendment to the Planning and Building Bill

Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) expressed government opposition to MK Bielski’s amendment that would promote affordable housing for young people in various ways. He said that he personally agrees with the bill but the government is against it, so he must vote against the bill.

MK Bielski (Kadima) asked for a two to three week extension on the voting of the bill. Minister Yishai granted the request. Deputy Speaker Akunis (Likud) noted that there would only be a vote and no discussion when the bill comes up again.

Amendment to the Entry into Israel Bill

MK Michaeli (Shas) explained his amendment would allow students, tourists or others who live in Israel the right to stay in Israel for five years if they are eligible under the right of return laws. He said that if a person is eligible for immigration but wants to check Israel out for five years before making that decision, it should be allowed. He said it is strange that the country would deport eligible citizens because they spent too much time in Israel.  Work privileges would be granted and aliyah rights would not expire during the five years.

Interior Minister Yishai said that Jews should be given special treatment over other tourists and should not be treated like foreign workers. He noted that Jewish Agency Chairman Sharansky and Immigration and Absorption Minister Landver (Y.B.) both support this bill. He expressed his and the government’s support for this bill. He said that recently he approved an executive order that allows Jewish tourists who are not students to work in Israel for two to three years. He said that he believes this bill will encourage aliyah.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 34-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

Amendment to the Marriage and Divorce Ordinance Bill

MK Kirshenbaum (Y.B.) explained her amendment would allow couples to go through the marriage registration process in the area of their choice as opposed to the current situation of allowing it only where the couple live. She said that a couple should be allowed to choose a different city if the local rabbinate is discriminating against converts and immigrants. She noted that this would also help the Tzohar Rabbis of Shoham gain more popularity and allow more liberal-leaning rabbinical weddings. She said that because the government is opposed to this bill, she will give them two more weeks to decide to support it. She vowed that she will bring her bill for a vote in two weeks with or without the government’s support.

Amendment to the Ultra-Orthodox Jews’ Appropriate Representation in Public Service Sector Bill

MK Gafni (U.T.J.) noted that women, Ethiopians, Arabs, Druze and Russians all have higher employment rates than the ultra-orthodox and blamed the government’s policy for the discrimination. He explained his amendment would create an affirmative action for the ultra-orthodox so that they no longer act as a burden on the Israeli economy. He charged that they are not given jobs because of their lifestyle and not because of lack of qualifications. He called the government hypocrites for calling on the ultra-orthodox to work and then opposing a bill that will only call for affirmative action in the public sector. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to give the government time to come to their senses.

Amendment to the Penal Code Bill

MK Shai explained that his amendment would prohibit sexual relations between alternative therapists and their patients. He said that alternative medicine is complicated because its therapists are not graduates of actual universities and the law doesn’t regulate the industry at all. He noted that a 2004 amendment prohibited sexual relations between doctors and therapists with their patients. He stated that since then several cases of sexual harassment and other issues have hit the courts concerning alternative medicine. He reported that in such cases the courts have found that the 2004 amendment does not cover alternative therapists.  He explained his amendment would close the technical loophole.

Justice Minister Neeman said the matter is complicated because it is hard to define who is an alternative therapist. He added that the 2004 amendment of the prohibition of sexual relations between a therapist and a patient extends to three years after the last treatment. He expressed government support for the bill but warned the bill will be changed dramatically in committee.

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