The Knesset’s Wednesday session lasted about eight hours. 16 bills were discussed. Six bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, six were defeated, two were turned into motions and two were withdrawn to avoid defeat. Four of the six bills advanced involve banning the use of Nazi symbols and other symbols from the Holocaust. The other two bills deal with consumer protection rules, such as paying in cash and coupons that don’t expire. Six motions were sent to various Knesset committees for discussion.

 

Non-Bills Summary

* Housing and Construction Minister Atias (Shas), Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.), Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) and Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.

* House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced that a disputed bill would be transferred to a different committee.

* Six motions were discussed on the hot topics of the week. The motions were sent to committee by the votes 8-0, 11-0, 13-0, 10-0, 5-0 and 5-0.

 

Bills Summary

Mount of Olives Authority Bill

MK Eldad (N.U.) explained his original bill passed its preliminary reading during the Olmert administration thanks to then-Jerusalem Minister, Kadima MK Edery. He asked the government to support his attempt to pass it during a conservative administration. He explained his bill would classify the cemetery on the Mount of Olives as a national preserve that must be maintained. He noted that the ancestors of many of the Jewish MKs’ families are buried there and it was expected when Israel gained control of the area in 1967 that nothing bad would be done to it. He warned that Israel has neglected the cemetery and allowed it to turn into a drug and crime zone. He called on the government to either clean up and take care of the Mount of Olives or pass his legislation that would create an authority to do just that. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to try to enlist more government support.

Banning the Use of Nazi Symbols, Aliases. Holocaust-Related Nicknames Bill x4

MK Ariel (N.U.) explained his original bill would ban the use of nazi symbols and names in Israel. He said that the usage of Nazi memorabilia by Ultra Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Christians is insulting to Holocaust survivors. He said that this bill might harm freedom of expression, but in every democracy there are boundaries. He stressed that the usage of Nazi symbols in Israel is past all boundaries in a Jewish state. He said that a judge is allowed to fine any citizen or tourist up to NIS 100,000 for breaking this law.

MK Solodkin (Kadima) explained her similar bill would prohibit the use of Holocaust-related nicknames. She said six million Jews lost their lives and nothing should ever be compared to the Holocaust. She said we must protect the Holocaust survivors from such occurrences.

MK Orlev (J.H.) explained his similar bill would prohibit harming the memory of the Holocaust. He asked how Israel could lead the fight against the Holocaust deniers if they didn’t pass the following pieces of legislation. He asked how any Jew could harm the memory of the Holocaust and called on the Knesset to support all of the bills that will be merged into one.

MK Molla (Kadima) explained his similar bill that was co-sponsored with MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) will place new limitations on freedom of expression when it comes to Nazis and the Holocaust.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for all four bills. He said these bills are among the most important of the current Knesset.

MK Khenin (Hadash) opposed the bills. He said this is a hard, extreme and unique blow to freedom of expression in Israel and claimed the bills go too far. He said it is unacceptable to take the Nazis out of history and common discussion. He said they were a political party and movement and must not be erased from memory. He asked if Netanyahu, who tried to draw a parallel between Hitler and Iran’s President, will now become a criminal under the new law. He added that he disagreed with Netanyahu about any connection between the two. He argued the “Never Again” argument is not meant to silence freedom of expression. He asked if building camps for Sudanese can be compared with concentration camps. He stressed he isn’t a Holocaust denier and noted he is named after a relative who died in the Holocaust.

MK Ariel responded that every party from Labor through Kadima to Likud and the rest of the nationalist camp supports this bill. He asked Khenin how he could compare to concentration camps a camp that gives real showers and three warm meals to Sudanese. He screamed at Khenin for having the chutzpa to say we don’t need this bill. He said if certain exceptions must be made, they can be done in the committee before the first reading. He said that there is a consensus on this bill among all Israelis who are sane.

The four bills passed their preliminary readings 27-4 28-3 31-1 and 26-4, and were merged into one bill in the Justice Committee.

Minister Peled (Likud) said as a Holocaust survivor he doesn’t understand how any MK could have possibly voted against these elementary bills. He said that he will be meeting Germany’s Chancellor and will be asking her to extend the prohibition of the publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf book. He wondered how he could have asked that if the Knesset hadn’t advanced these bills today.

Amendment to the Consumer Protection Bill

MK Miller (Y.B.) explained his amendment would prohibit expiration dates on coupons given from the government or as a company gift to an employee.

Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) expressed government support for the bill. He noted the government will not support the retroactive clause in the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 25-0 and was sent to the Funds Committee.

Amendment to the Consumer Protection Bill

MK Cabel (Labor) explained his amendment would prohibit conditioning the type of payment in a transaction. He stated if someone wants to pay in cash they should be allowed to do so, and now businesses will have to accept cash for any type of payment. He said certain people prefer paying all of their bills in cash and now they will be able to do so. He said that the customer will be sent a bill in the mail ten days before the payment date.

Industry and Trade Minister Simhon expressed government support for the bill. He noted certain sections would have to be removed from the final draft of the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 23-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Motion/Amendment to the Penal Code Bill

MK Ganaim (R.T.) explained his amendment would prohibit advertisements for spiritual or mystical treatments. He warned there are many “whack jobs” who prey on people’s mystical interests and make a quick buck. He said his bill would not take away their jobs but would at least make them less accessible. He stated certain successful mystical magicians make loads of money and don’t even pay full taxes. He added that there are many cases of sexual harassment and worse.

Justice Minister Neeman said the government opposed the bill but would accept a discussion on the matter as a motion. Ganaim agreed.

The motion passed 17-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Amendment to the Planning and Building Bill

MK Swaid (Hadash) explained his amendment would eliminate criminal offenses and penalties for owners of illegal housing that is in the process of being legalized but is held up in bureaucracy. He said this bill is in the spirit of Interior Minister Yishai’s (Shas) solutions for illegal housing as Yishai outlined during an answer to an urgent query two weeks ago.

Minister Nahari (Shas) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that breaking the law is unacceptable and eliminating the punishment for breaking the law is unacceptable. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to consult the matter with Yishai.

Establishing Shelters for Battered Women Bill

MK Zoabi (Balad) explained there are only thirteen shelters for battered women and her bill would increase the number of shelters and the number of women allowed in each shelter. She stated her original bill would transfer all of the shelters into full government funding and care. She noted that eighteen battered women were murdered in Israel in 2010 and the number was higher in 2011. She also called for more Arab shelters since the mixed shelter has eighty Arabs and thirteen Jews. She said that Arab women are in more danger and there should be more shelters for them.

Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) said there are fifteen shelters and another two under construction. He said that Israel would be in real trouble if they needed to build 260 shelters like Zoabi asked.

The bill was defeated 15-42.

Amendment to the Judges Bill

MK Horowitz (Meretz) explained his amendment would allow women to serve as manager of rabbinical courts. He said that he is 100% against rabbinical courts, but as long as we have them, women should be allowed to serve in key positions since they are still public institutions. He said opposing this bill would mean excluding women from Israel’s public sector. He spent the next ten minutes discussing his opposition to rabbinical courts.

Minister Nahari explained the government position is to keep the status quo in the rabbinical courts and therefore it is opposed to the bill.

MK Horowitz said that Nahari and his answer are the reasons the secular Israelis hate religious Jews. He spent the next five minutes attacking the connection of state and religion.

The bill was defeated 12-36.

Amendment to the Water Tariff Reduction Due to a Medical Condition Bill

MK Abesadze (Kadima) explained her amendment would lower water payments for people with serious medical conditions. She told a few personal stories of homeless and sick people. She explained certain people need more water than the average person because of their sickness and it is the government’s job to pay for it. She stressed it is the government’s job to take care of all of its citizens. She warned that opposing bills like this one will lead to another social justice protest movement.

Energy and Water Minister Landau (Y.B.) said he agreed with Abesadze in principle but disagreed with her methodology. He said that his ministry’s budget can’t afford to fund this bill and that is why he opposes it. He called on Abesadze to try to change government policy and his ministry’s funding in other ways and not to expect him to take money away from one important thing in order to invest in another important thing. He said he cares about the handicapped and autistics, who need more water, but explained he needs more money.

The bill was defeated 18-31.

Amendment to the Price Inspection of Commodities and Services Bill

MK Tirosh (Kadima) explained her amendment would force the government to supervise Israeli staple items. She slammed free trade, competition and capitalism, claiming they have raised prices above the prices from when Israel was a socialist economy. She said capitalism has failed and has led to cartels. She accused the government of pretending to provide free childcare for ages 3 and 4 when there aren’t any new preschools that have been built.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that a government committee is determining which items are staple items. The committee plans to suggest reintroducing supervision on what they define as staple items. He added that lowering the age of free public education to three is historic and should be supported.

MK Tirosh asked how many committees this government has created that led to nowhere. She stressed that she defined staple items and the government should support her bill. She called Cohen’s response a disgrace.

The bill was defeated 18-32.

Amendment to the Companies Bill

MK Shai (Kadima) explained his amendment would establish a pool of potential directors for public companies. He said that it is important for public companies to be run by independent directors and not by political appointees. He stated establishing a directory will be able to ensure that it is implemented.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that the current checks and balances are sufficient. He said the loopholes of the current procedure are not closed in Shai’s bill and therefore there is no reason to support it.

The bill was defeated 18-33.

Motion/Amendment to the Prison Ordinance Bill

MK Bibi (Kadima) explained his amendment would prohibit public phone use for committing a crime in prison. He said that many criminals use public phones in the jails to run their gangs on the outside and they also use it to order hits and launder money. He agreed to turn the bill into a motion in order to avoid defeat and discuss the matter in committee.

The motion was passed 25-0 and sent to the Interior Committee.

Amendment to the Police Ordinance Bill

MK Solodkin (Kadima) explained her amendment would make higher education a requirement for being hired as a serious crimes investigator or detective. She warned that the citizens have lost their faith in Israel’s police force and this bill would help correct that. She noted that the courts have repeatedly criticized uneducated police investigators who have accused the wrong people or messed up an interrogation, leading to a criminal’s release.

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) expressed government opposition to the bill. He stated some of Israel’s best police investigators don’t have higher education and would lose their jobs if this bill passed.

The bill was defeated 13-23.

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This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s January 11, 2012, session.

Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/00323712.doc

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