The Knesset’s Wednesday session lasted about twelve hours. Five of the 21 bills discussed were advanced after passing their preliminary readings. Eight bills were not voted on, and one bill was turned into a motion to avoid defeat, while seven bills were defeated. The controversial Tzohar Bill was among the bills advanced, as was MK Miller’s bill that passed despite government opposition. A Basic Law protecting the Return Bill was defeated.


Non-Bills Summary

* House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced changes to a joint Funds and Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee. MK Wilf (Independence) and Deputy Minister Cohen (Shas) will replace MKs Yachimovich (Labor) and Cohen (Shas). He added that MK Pinyan (Likud) will be a permanent substitute, as will MKs Tibi (R.T.) and El-Sana (R.T.). The measures were approved 5-2.

* Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) and Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) answered urgent queries.

* Funds Committee Chairman Gafni (U.T.J.) announced his committee’s request to split a VAT bill into two. It was approved 37-0.

* The traditional monthly opposition request to speak on ‘The Netanyahu government’s failure in the political, economic and social sectors’ was discussed by 15 MKs, Deputy Health Minister Litzman, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Livni.

* Five of the eight motions discussed were sent for further discussion in the various committees by the votes 9-2, 13-0, 8-0, 10-0 and 5-3. Two motions were not voted on, and a motion on ‘The need for a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on the exclusion of women in Israeli society’ was defeated 31-48.

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Inspection of Prices of Commodities and Services Bill

MK Azoulay (Shas) explained his amendment would require government supervision on prices of baby commodities. He said that diapers, formula and other daily baby items are overpriced and their prices must be placed under the government microscope for the purpose of creating a maximum cap on those items. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to gather government support.

Lawyers’ Comptroller Bill

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) explained that his original bill would create the position of a comptroller for lawyers in order to protect lawyers’ standing in society. He slammed the government lawyer Lador for opposing the bill and noted he has support from most of the MKs in the State Comptroller Committee. He listed many cases in which district attorneys framed innocent men and the courts later released the wronged men. He warned that some district attorneys are corrupt and creating a comptroller to sort them out will merely empower all lawyers in Israel. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to gather government support.

Electronic Waste Reduction and Recycling Bills

MK Horowitz (Meretz) explained his original bill would create a solution for recycling electronic waste in order to reduce the toxic waste in landfills by 70%.

He said that this bill will create jobs and that there are precious minerals in electronic waste that can be reused, like gold. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to gather government support.

MK Khenin (Hadash) explained his similar amendment would do the same thing. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to gather government support.


Amendment to the Memorial Day in Israel Bill

MK Matalon (Y.B.) explained his amendment would prohibit the collection of money for Memorial Day rallies and functions. He said it is disgusting that public institutions dared to charge people who lost their family members to attend Memorial Day gatherings and his bill will prohibit such behavior in the future.

Homefront Minister Vilnai (Independence) expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 25-1 and was sent to the Culture Committee. Minister Vilnai announced he voted against the bill by mistake.

Mandatory Identification Badge and Identification of a Public Official Bill

MK Orlev (J.H.) explained his original bill would make it mandatory for all policemen and other public officials to wear their identification badge when they are performing their duties. He said it is unacceptable that policemen would hide their identity and prevent citizens from knowing who they really are.

Bureaucracy Minister Eitan (Likud) said that he doesn’t support the bill but the government has decided by a narrow margin to support it. He agreed that there should be more transparency with public officials including the publication of their salaries and their work phone numbers.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 15-0 and was sent to the Labor Committee.

Amendment to the Employment of Women Bill

MK Cabel (Labor) explained his amendment would grant women the right to be absent from work for two hours of their work day while their husband is on reserve duty.

Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) expressed government support for the bill if it would exclude women who work in education.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 28-0 and was sent to the House Committee to decide which committee will discuss the bill further.

Regulating the Activities of Retired Heads of State Bill

MK Ben Simon (Labor) explained that his original bill would regulate the activities of retired heads of state and prevent them from doing certain things. He cited former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who went from the prime minister’s office to arms dealing in New York, and called it unacceptable. He said that former prime ministers shouldn’t be allowed to enter the private sector at all and must remain public officials.

Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill and slammed it. He said that this is a personal bill targeted at Prime Minister Netanyahu and if it was really meant to be transparent the bill would have applied to all MKs.

MK Ben Simon slammed Erdan and Netanyahu.

The bill was defeated 16-41-1.

Banning the Use of Mobile Phones in Educational Institutions Bill

MK Bibi (Kadima) explained his original bill would put an end to children using cell phones in classrooms. He said that sending text messages during class is unacceptable and it should be illegal. He noted a study that linked child cell phone usage to child illness. He stated that children should be allowed to enter school and leave school with the cell phone, but during school hours it should be in the locker. He mentioned that in the Knesset and in many businesses phones are not allowed in meetings and asked why schools should be treated any differently.

Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) said that he agrees with the bill in principle but expressed government opposition to the bill. He stated this bill would be impossible to enforce and it is better to add it as a provision to an internal set of regulations inside the education ministry. He said that he spoke with officials in New York City, which has a city provision prohibiting cell phones, and said that he supports municipalities that decide to pass such provisions.

MK Bibi slammed Sa’ar for not supporting his bill nor promising to support the idea of the bill through other means.

The bill was defeated 21-46-1.

Amendment to the Social Security Bill

MK Bibi explained his amendment would change the regulations for old age pensions for people who work up to the age of 70. He said the new regulations would allow the person to work half the year from age 67 to 70 and still enjoy the benefit of later old age pensions. He warned the current situation doesn’t encourage people to retire at 70 instead of 67 and his bill would save the government money.

Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that those who choose to retire later in life don’t really need their pensions. He said the difference between nine months and six months isn’t such a big deal and his ministry can’t afford it. He said that his budget is NIS 6.5 billion annually and he uses that budget to help those who really need it.

The bill was defeated 17-41.

Amendment to the Sale of Apartments Bill

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained his amendment would limit the legal component of real estate costs. He said that lawyers take up to 2.5% of the apartment’s price at the closing and his amendment would lower it to 0.5%. He slammed MK Rotem (Y.B.) for instructing Tourism Minister Misezhnikov (Y.B.) to tell the government to oppose the bill. He said a vote against this bill is a vote against young families trying to purchase their first homes. He slammed Yisrael Beitenu for opposing the bill and hurting the new immigrants who vote for them. Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) asked Sheetrit to postpone the vote on the bill and allow the government to reconsider and support his bill. Sheetrit agreed.

Amendment to the Companies Bill

MK Sheetrit explained his amendment would prohibit a member of a bank or public board of directors to serve as a director for a private economic company. He said that this bill is correcting a conflict of interest 101. He named a private company whose 16 directors all serve as directors in public companies and banks. He charged that a small group of people are playing around with Israelis’ money. He listed other companies which the daily newspaper Marker revealed as having similar boards. He slammed the corrupt business tycoons for naming bank directors to their board in order to increase their credit or debt. He warned this situation can lead to a collapse of the Israeli financial system as we know it.

Bureaucracy Minister Eitan announced his opposition to Sheetrit’s previous bill. He went on to express government opposition to the current bill. He explained Justice Minister Neeman agrees to prevent the bank element but not the whole public sector. Eitan warned that overhauling all of Israel’s major companies’ directorates is a dangerous thing and changes must be made gradually.

MK Sheetrit asked why the government supports the 53 directors in the public sector that serve as directors for private companies simultaneously.

The bill was defeated 27-42-1.

Amendment of the Public Health Ordinance Bill

MK Whbee (Kadima) explained his amendment would prohibit fluoridated drinking water. He said that many studies have shown that fluoride is unhealthy and every western country except Ireland has prohibited putting fluoride in drinking water. He told Litzman to wake up before he has another Eltroxin mishap that put 200,000 Israeli thyroid patients at risk. He thanked the 57 MKs who co-sponsored his bill.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman expressed his and the government’s opposition to the bill on the grounds that fluoride in the right dosage makes drinking water more healthy. He said that fluoride has been found in drinking water since 1945 and 400 million people in 60 countries drink such water today, Israel joining that group in 1983. He cited studies from WHO, ADA, AMA and CDC that all show that fluoridated drinking water is healthier than non-fluoridated water.

MK Whbee said that 400 million people out of 7 billion people is a small minority and there is a reason why over 6 billion people are no longer drinking fluoridated water. He said that rarely are 57 MKs who co-sponsor a bill wrong.

The bill was defeated 20-44-1.

Amendment to the Lending Textbooks Bill

MK Tirosh (Kadima) slammed the government for trying to head towards digital schoolbooks and called the measure unrealistic. She explained her amendment would allow parents to borrow required books from the school or education ministry instead of bookstores. She stated each year the children will give the textbooks to the grade under them when they complete the year. She added that she seeks to prohibit the sale of textbooks that are not approved by the education ministry.

Education Minister Sa’ar returned Tirosh her glasses that she forgot at the podium. He expressed his and the government’s opposition to the bill. He noted that 1,100 schools already have such a program and that his ministry can’t afford the budget of extending the program to all schools. He stated that under his leadership he has tripled the funding of the program and he will do his best to extend the program as much as the budget allows without the need for legislation. He slammed MK Bar-On (Kadima), who heckled his speech and compared Netanyahu to Mussolini. Deputy Speaker Akunis (Likud) removed MK Bar-On from the plenum after he chose to heckle him as well. Sa’ar asked Kadima to act with some dignity and finished his speech.

MK Tirosh said that Sa’ar is a great minister but she doesn’t know if she can trust the next minister and that is why she proposed this bill. She asked Sa’ar to delay the vote on the bill and Sa’ar agreed.

Gag on Racism, Inciting Racial Hatred and Racial Registration of Corporate Documents Bill

MK Molla (Kadima) blasted Deputy Speaker Akunis for his treatment of MK Bar-On. Deputy Speaker Akunis defended himself and slammed Bar-On for acting like a bully. Molla said his original bill would increase the sanctions on racists and expand the current definition of racism in Israeli law. He slammed Israeli authorities for not prosecuting enough racists each year.

Bureaucracy Minister Eitan said that Molla’s bill damages the current balance between what is covered under freedom of expression and what is considered racism. He warned that this bill would destroy freedom of expression as we know it. Eitan said he doesn’t deny there are many racists in Israel, but he expressed concern that this bill goes too far.

MK Zuaretz (Kadima) said that many religious people and rabbis incite against other Israeli minority groups and under this bill they would be sent away to jail.

The bill was defeated 24-35.

Motion/Amendment to the Holocaust and Heroism Yad Vashem Bill

MK Solodkin (Kadima) explained her amendment would form a Righteous Gentiles and Raoul Wallenberg Day in memory of the many people who gave their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. She thanked her co-sponsor MK Ben Ari (N.U.) for supporting her throughout the process of the bill. She noted that Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat, saved 100,000 Jews and was killed for it, and he deserves a day named after him. She agreed to turn the bill into a motion in order for the bill not to be defeated. She slammed Yad Vashem for opposing the bill and noted that Yad Vashem Chairman Rabbi Lau agreed to support the bill if the date is changed to January 17th.

The motion passed 20-0 and was sent to the Culture Committee.

Amendment to the National Health Insurance Bill

MK Solodkin explained her amendment would increase the discount on Holocaust survivors’ medications.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman asked Solodkin to postpone the vote on the bill for two months in order for his ministry to find a way to support the bill. MK Solodkin agreed, and Litzman thanked her.

Amendment to the Social Security Bill

MK Agbaria (Hadash) explained his amendment would reduce the social security payment for medical school students in an institution of higher education outside of Israel. He said that many Israelis study medicine outside of Israel because there aren’t enough places, not because they want to leave Israel, and because of this they shouldn’t have to pay full social security payments. He stated that discriminating against these students is wrong and there is no reason why they should pay more social security than Israeli students if they aren’t even in the country. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to give the government more time to change its mind.

Basic Law: Return Bill

MK Eldad (N.U.) explained his intention is to protect the current Return Bill by turning it into a Basic Law. He said that a bill that is the pillar of Israeli democracy should be elevated to a Basic Law in order to protect its Jewish identity and Zionistic ideology. He warned that if the bill isn’t fortified the Supreme Court might repeal the Return Bill and Israel will cease to exist as a Jewish state. He slammed Shas and UTJ for opposing the bill. He blasted Labor and Meretz for opposing the bill and told them they can no longer calls themselves Zionists.

Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) thanked MK Eldad for a remarkable speech. He said that he doesn’t see a reason to elevate the Return Bill to become a Basic Law. He noted that Kadima MKs Sheetrit and Bielski are among many centrist MKs that seek to repeal the original Return Bill. He expressed his and the government’s opposition to the bill.

MK Eldad told Yishai that he just gave his least convincing speech ever from the Knesset podium. He asked Netanyahu to save his dignity and abstain. He asked Foreign Minister Liberman, who supported the bill, to instruct his MKs to vote for the bill. Liberman responded that he supports the bill but he can’t do as Eldad asked. Eldad warned the MKs they are voting against word for word the Return Bill. He called on all of the real Zionist MKs to at least not vote if they aren’t allowed to vote for it.

Interior Minister Yishai responded that the Supreme Court treats the bill as a Basic Law so there is no reason to give the bill a promotion.

The bill was defeated 10-36.

Amendment to the Marriage and Divorce Ordinance Bill

Bureaucracy Minister Eitan (Likud) explained that MK Kirshenbaum’s amendment would allow Jews to go through the marriage registration process in any area or city under the authority of the religious affairs ministry. He said the current situation allows the couple to register only in the cities in which they live and some of those cities discriminate against certain groups. He agreed this bill will solve that problem. He added that the government also supports a similar amendment by MK Schneller (Kadima).

Religious Affairs Minister Margi (Shas) slammed the bill. He said that it is unacceptable that a different minister would answer this bill when it is a bill that is under the authority of his ministry. He said that there is no problem of Jewish couples registering in any city. He attacked the MKs who he said are trying to win political points over an unnecessary bill. He said he is willing to support Schneller’s bill that has some sense but he can’t support Kirshenbaum’s.

Bureaucracy Minister Eitan said he had no idea that Margi wanted to present the government’s position to the bill considering he opposed it. He clarified that he wouldn’t have presented the government’s position if he knew Margi wanted to do so.

MK Gafni (U.T.J.) objected to the bill. He said that Margi was playing too nice. He slammed Kirshenbaum for a sloppy piece of legislation in an issue that she has no clue about. He said Tzohar Rabbis will put the religious affairs ministry out of business and warned all MKs to oppose the bill. He charged that if the haredim were in a Kadima-led government this bill never would have passed.

MK Kirshenbaum (Y.B.) said her bill is better than Schneller’s and that his bill won’t be voted on today but her bill will. She called on the whole Knesset to support the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 57-15 and was sent to the House Committee in order to determine which committee will discuss the bill further. Prime Minister Netanyahu voted against the bill by mistake.

Bonus for Immigrant Teachers Bill

MK Miller (Y.B.) explained his original bill would encourage good teachers who are immigrants to stay in the public sector by providing them bonuses, so that they don’t leave for the private sector. He said that most of the math and science teachers are immigrants and it is in the country’s best interest to keep them in the public school system.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) expressed government opposition to the bill. He warned that if it does pass, Miller must agree to lower the amount of the bonuses in order to secure the 50 MKs needed to fund the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 35-5 and was sent to the House Committee in order to determine which committee will discuss the bill further.