The Knesset’s Monday session lasted about ten hours, finishing at 2 AM. 18 bills were discussed. Thirteen bills passed their third readings and became law, and five bills were advanced after passing their first readings. The government survived the weekly no-confidence votes. There were many interesting bills discussed in a day highlighted by a mini-filibuster on new temporary three-year provisions to the Prevention of Infiltration Bill. The new bill is difficult to understand and can be interpreted in many different ways. A new amendment to the Courts Bill on gag orders was also a controversial topic of discussion. Check out the many new laws passed, many of which might affect your life.

 

Non-Bills Summary

* Kadima’s no-confidence motion titled ‘The Netanyahu government raises prices and hurt the middle class and other disadvantaged groups’ was defeated 39-51 with 30 MKs not present.

* Labor and Meretz’s joint no-confidence motion titled ‘Lack of social policy and political isolation of the Netanyahu government’ was defeated 36-53 with 31 MKs not present.

* Hadash, Ra’am-Ta’al and Balad’s joint no-confidence motion titled ‘Government policies against the Bedouin Arabs’ was defeated 13-53 with 54 MKs not present.

* MK Michaeli (Shas) announced the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee’s request to split a bill. It was approved 8-0.

 

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Prisoners of Zion and Their Families Bill

Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee Chairman Danon (Likud) explained the amendment declares that only the regional Labor Courts will hear the cases of Prisoners of Zion appeals.

The bill passed its second reading 53-3-1.

The bill passed its third reading 57-2.

Temporary Order Amendment to the Social Security Bill

Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Chairman Katz (Likud) explained the temporary order amendment that allows social security doctor house calls for those over 90 years old to be extended for another year.

The bill passed its second reading 59-0.

The bill passed its third reading 59-0.

Amendment to the Social Security Bill

Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Chairman Katz explained the amendment would prohibit retroactive social security benefits of over 12 months for most citizens and 24 months for those over 62 years old.

The bill passed its second reading 48-0.

The bill passed its third reading 49-0.

Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) thanked the Knesset for approving the last two bills, which his ministry wrote.

Amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance Bill

Funds Committee Chairman Gafni (U.T.J.) explained the amendment will allow businesses not to comply with IFRS reporting standards for the tax years of 2010 and 2011.

The bill passed its second reading 31-0.

The bill passed its third reading 28-0.

Amendment to the Municipal Elections Bill

Interior and Environment Committee Chairman Cohen (Shas) explained the amendment will send all appeals of municipal elections to the administrative affairs courts. He said that there are six different laws written on municipal elections and before this bill each bill was heard by a different court. He said this bill will create a one-stop-shop for municipal election appeals.

The bill passed its second reading 29-0.

The bill passed its third reading 29-0.

Amendment to the Parole from Prison Bill

Law, Constitution and Justice Committee Chairman Rotem (Y.B.) explained the amendment describes under which procedures and circumstances parole can be given for health reasons. He said the amendment will also include a procedure for returning a prisoner from parole to jail if his circumstance changes for the better.

The bill passed its second reading 25-0.

The bill passed its third reading 25-0.

Amendment to the Repo Execution Bill

Law, Constitution and Justice Committee Chairman Rotem explained the amendment will shorten the time between a court order to evacuate a house and the time a repo man can evict the people living in that house. He called on the MKs to oppose Khenin and Horowitz’s objections, which he said would allow repo men power to override court decisions.

MK Khenin (Hadash) said throwing someone out of their home is terrible and we should be as lenient as possible in giving them as much time as they need to find other arrangements. He said throwing someone into the street is unacceptable and his objection prevents such an occurrence. He said he believes that every person deserves a home and it is the country’s responsibility to make sure that every person has one. He said he will defend this communist principle to his grave.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) said the social justice movement of this past summer says there are more than two sides, the renter and the landlord. He said a third side of the government must be implemented into the Israeli psyche. He agreed with Khenin’s speech and said leaving Israelis without a roof is terrible. He said he understands the socialist mindset is lost on the conservatives but called on the socialists to vote for his objections. He added his objection that the government would pay the landlord rent after the court ordered eviction.

Chairman Rotem said it is convenient for ideological reasons to ruin the Israeli court system. He slammed Khenin and Horowitz, who are asking to pass a law to ignore a court order. He blasted them for accusing him of ruining the court system. He challenged them and told him that he will support the objections if they agreed to apply them to the residents of Judea and Samaria.

The paragraphs passed their second readings 30-0-3, 29-4 and 26-6.

The objections were defeated 5-27 and 6-23-1.

The bill passed its third reading 27-5.

Changing the System of Updating Pensions Bill

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) explained the original government bill would change the pension system for the electric company. He said that he hoped that other government companies will agree to negotiate and join the bill before it passes its third reading.

The bill passed its first reading 24-0 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.

Amendment to the Forests Ordinance Bill

Interior and Environment Committee Chairman Cohen explained the amendment would make it harder to uproot a tree and would create a long checklist that must be completed by contractors before moving a tree from one place to another. He called on the Knesset to oppose Khenin and Horowitz’s objections.

MK Khenin said a city without trees is not a good city and called on citizens to protect the trees in their cities. He said this amendment doesn’t go far enough for his taste. He said there must be a sign next to every tree that is in danger of being uprooted. He said no one checks the internet daily to see which trees are in danger of being uprooted and that is why his objection is so important. He also called on extending the time someone can petition the removal for another 14 days.

MK Horowitz said trees create shade, lower the temperature and create harmony. He complained that too many trees are uprooted. He stated that although this amendment is a good one, it doesn’t go far enough. He said people connect their lives with trees and there are many people who risk their lives for trees.

Chairman Cohen defended his bill and said that in certain cases, such as trees blocking a driver’s vision at a busy intersection, trees must be taken down at once to save actual lives instead of trees.

The bill’s paragraphs were passed in their second readings 25-0 and 21-4.

The objections were defeated 4-21 and 4-21.

The bill passed its third reading 21-3.

Amendment to the Israel Antiquities Authority Bill

Education, Culture and Sport Committee Chairman Miller (Y.B.) explained the amendment would place the Israel Antiquities Authority under the Culture and Sport Ministry. He added the amendment also has significant changes to the makeup of the authority and its personnel.

MK Khenin charged that the changes in the amendment are meant to allow political appointments. He warned that politicking the antiquities authority is problematic and dangerous. He stated this bill will harm the legitimacy of the authority and place unqualified people in key positions. He concluded that it is a bad bill that leaves a bad taste in normal people’s mouths.

MK Horowitz accused Culture and Sport Minister Livnat (Likud) of pursuing this bill in order to pave the way for a certain neurologist to chair the antiquities authority. He blasted the idea that such an important authority would be given out as political prizes to key supporters. He called the bill unprofessional and a disgrace. He challenged the coalition to accept his objections to the bill.

The bills paragraphs passed their second readings 20-5, 22-5 and 23-7.

The objections on the bill were defeated 5-22, 3-22, 4-24, 4-24 and 4-24.

The bill passed its third reading 24-6.

Amendment to the Courts Bill

Law, Constitution and Justice Committee Chairman Rotem explained the amendment would allow a citizen under investigation to request that the courts place a gag order on releasing any information on the investigation before an Indictment is handed down. He added the amendment will also enact an automatic 48-hour gag order regardless of the court’s decision on whether or not to extend the gag order until the indictment. He noted the courts can override the automatic 48-hour gag order in cases of public safety or if it will help the investigation. He stated the balance within the amendment is the press’ ability to appeal the gag order if they feel the case meets one or both of the conditions for lifting it. He called on the MKs to reject the opposition’s objections to the bill and to support the one objection from the coalition.

MK Gal-On (Meretz) blasted the bill as another attempt to censor the media’s coverage of public officials’ court cases. She accused the bill of seriously harming the investigative journalism industry and noted there is not one western country that has a similar law. She stated that until 2002 there were only a handful of gag orders in such cases and since then there has been a trend to censor the media more and more. She said that only 3% of arrested Israelis find their personal information from the investigation, including their name, in Israeli papers, and most of them end up being found guilty. She warned that gag orders empower powerful defendants to get cases against them dropped and warned that if this bill had been passed already Itzick Mordechai and Moshe Katsav would both have remained elected officials. She stated this bill will strengthen the link between business tycoons and the government and that sometimes 48 hours is all that is needed to spin a story.

MK Horowitz stated the public’s right to know outweighs a private citizen’s right to privacy. He said that generally the police don’t investigate innocent people and their identity, as well the charges against them, should be published in the press. He said if the press is against this bill that is a good enough reason to oppose this bill as well. He stressed that freedom of the press is more important than an individual’s right to privacy. He said this is not a bill for a democratic state that claims to have a free press and human rights. He said he fully supported MK Gal-On’s speech and called on the Knesset to support the bill only with his and his friends’ objections.

MK Molla (Kadima) objected to the way the press currently gets around gag orders by naming a group and saying one of the members of that group is under investigation for a crime of such and such. He listed a few examples, such as a mayor in the south, an MK of a certain party and so on. He said placing the shadow of blame on 20 people when only one of them is guilty is problematic. He went on to explain that he is worried the new changes in this bill will force the media to widen their scope and imply that groups of hundreds of people might be guilty. He alleged this bill is most likely the wish of Foreign Minister Liberman (Y.B.) who is instructing his lackey, Rotem, to pass a bill that will help Liberman hide from guilt. He concluded by saying it is better for the guilt to be placed on one person and not on a whole group of people.

Energy and Water Minister Landau (Y.B.) explained the police have brought up one objection. He said the objection will require the defendant’s lawyer to apply for gag orders of over 48 hours instead of the police.

Chairman Rotem responded the bill is well balanced and dismissed the criticism from the opposition, claiming the courts will most likely not grant gag orders of over 48 hours and the press is allowed to appeal all decisions. He agreed with the objection Minister Landau presented and called on the Knesset to reject the others.

The bill’s paragraphs passed their second readings 21-8 and 21-8.

The opposition’s objections were defeated 7-22, 8-22, and 8-21.

The coalition’s objection was passed 22-6.

The bill passed its third reading 21-8.

Temporary Provision Amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Bill

Interior and Environment Committee Chairman Cohen reported that illegal immigration has become an epidemic. In 2011, 16,000 illegals entered Israel. The 3,000 that entered Israel just in December show that the trend is becoming very troubling. He announced that the southern border fence with Egypt will be completed by the end of 2012 and will help reduce illegal immigration from 2013 and onwards. He said he was presenting this government bill as a way to deal with the situation for 2012, until the fence is completed. He explained the new temporary provisions for the next three years would enable the government to take certain actions against illegal immigrants, including holding them for more than two months in a government facility and various deportation methodologies. He agreed that the bill overall introduces harsher laws but maintained that everything is in line with the Geneva Convention and other international agreements. He asked the MKs to reject all of the objections to the bill.

MK Khenin warned the bill is very dangerous. He noted that he had enough objections to stay on the podium for nine hours and twenty minutes but has agreed to a deal that would limit him to a 100-minute filibuster. He spent his 100 minutes ripping the very complicated bill apart, with his main objection that the bill violates human rights. He went on to give many examples. He also got into shouting matches with the bill’s supporters in order to pass time.

MK Horowitz spent fifteen minutes agreeing with Khenin and sharpening his points.

MK Gal-On talked for twelve minutes and took over where Horowitz had stopped in terms of sharpening Khenin’s arguments against the bill.

MK Yachimovich (Labor) explained her party’s four objections to the bill by repeating some of Khenin’s arguments.

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) rejected comparisons between this bill and the Holocaust. He went on to express his support for the bill and gave many reasons why he feels illegal immigrants are a problem.

MK Katzeleh (N.U.) expressed his support for the bill, praising it and opposing the objections.

MK Molla (Kadima) expressed his opposition to the bill and said Israel should find other ways to stop illegal immigration. He agreed with Hadash, Meretz and Labor’s objections to the bill.

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) expressed his support for the bill in its entirety. He agreed that it is a dangerous bill but said it would be more dangerous not to support the bill. He lectured Molla and rejected most of his faction member’s speeches.

MK Abesadze (Kadima) supported Molla and slammed Hasson for five minutes.

Chairman Cohen defended the bill by stressing it is a temporary provision for only three years and upon completion of the fence the government is allowed to terminate it. He particularly screamed at Molla for talking nonsense, not reading the law and making a salad of illegal immigrants and terrorists. He noted how many illegals are stealing jobs and how certain cities are losing their Jewish flavor, like Eilat, which is now 20% illegals. He warned that if this bill isn’t passed the country will be lost.

Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) presented a few government objections to the bill that he asked be included in the final version. He screamed at MK Khenin for wasting the Knesset’s time with a pointless filibuster.

Chairman Cohen returned to the podium and asked the MKs not to support the government objections.

Speaker Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu got into an exchange on the government objections, and Netanyahu agreed to pull them.

The bill’s paragraphs passed their second readings 37-9, 37-9, 39-7, 36-9 and 39-9.

The objections to the bill were defeated 9-36-1, 9-37, 9-37 and 2-40. All other objections were withdrawn.

The bill passed its third reading 37-8.

Amendment to the Knesset Bill

House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced the amendment will fix technical loopholes in the Knesset Bill. He said the bill will only allow political parties to join factions instead of movements and other extinct political bodies.

The bill passed its second reading 14-0.

The bill passed its third reading 15-0.

Amendment to the Local Authorities Elections Bill

Interior and Environment Committee Chairman Cohen explained the amendment would allow the chairman of a polling station to determine if a voter needs another person to assist them in the voting process and would give the chairman the power to authorize an assistant to help the disabled person vote. He explained that the present law allows anybody to have an assistant help them vote, which results in people abusing that power to make sure the voter casts a certain vote.

The bill passed its second reading 11-0.

The bill passed its third reading 11-0.

Amendment to the Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Bill

MK Matalon (Y.B.) explained the amendment would gradually increase soldiers’ release grants until it reaches NIS 20,000 for three-year soldiers in the year 2016.

The bill passed its first reading 8-0 and was sent to the Labor Committee.

Amendment to the Municipal Taxes and Government Fees Ordinance Bill

MK Gilon (Meretz) explained his amendment would grant a municipal property tax exemption for any institution that houses mentally disabled people who are either employed, in training or in rehabilitation. He said people who employ or house mentally disabled people deserve a full municipal tax break. He noted the bill will cost about two million shekels annually.

MK Ben Ari said he is against all three bills. He said that giving tax exceptions to certain groups hurts the municipality and the other citizens. He said everyone should pay municipal taxes with no exceptions. He agreed to support the bill until the government takes away exceptions from all minority groups.

The bill passed its first reading 8-0 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.

Amendment to the Municipal Taxes and Government Fees Ordinance Bill

MK Khenin explained his amendment would grant a municipal property tax exemption for any institution that houses disabled citizens who are either employed, in training or in rehabilitation.

The bill passed its first reading 8-0 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.

Amendment to the Municipal Taxes and Government Fees Ordinance Bill

MK Gilon explained MK Haim Katz’s municipal property tax exemption for institutions that house disabled citizens who are not capable of employment. He stated that this bill will cost less than 5 million shekels. He explained that the reason the three bills are separate is that the funding of the idea is split among three bills in order to achieve government support.

The bill passed its first reading 8-0 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.

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This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s January 9, 2012, session.

Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/00249412.doc

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