The Knesset’s Wednesday session lasted about eleven hours. Sixteen bills were discussed. Eight bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, four were defeated, two were turned into motions and two were not voted on in order to avoid defeat. The bills advanced give welfare payments to orphans of veterans, regulate professional sports coaches, allow the strengthening of buildings for earthquakes, solve the Kfar Shalem housing issues, and enact supervision on government money in large companies. Eleven motions were also discussed. The monthly 40 MK session was quieter than in months past. The Knesset’s newest MK Avi Duan took the oath of office.

Non-Bills Summary

* Homefront Defense Minister Vilnai (Independence), Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) and Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.

* The newest Member of Knesset, Avraham Duan, took the oath of office, replacing Eli Aflalo, who chose to retire from the Knesset in order to accept a position in the  Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael. Duan confessed he didn’t sleep the night before and this is a dream come true for him. He said being an MK is a promotion from his job as a social worker and Aflalo took his breath away when he decided to step down.

* A 40 MK signature request for a discussion on the ‘Netanyahu government’s failure in the political, economic and social sectors ‘ was discussed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, Opposition Leader Livni and 15 MKs. Netanyahu’s speech was approved 31-22.

* Eleven motions were discussed on a wide range of topics, and all of them were sent to various Knesset committees for further discussion by the votes 32-14, 30-26, 11-0, 6-0, 4-0, 4-0, 5-0, 3-0, 4-0, 4-0 and 2-0.

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Pension Payment to Reserve Soldiers’ Families Bill

MK Haim Katz (Likud) explained his amendment would require the country to transfer payments to the children of a reservist who has died if the spouse is deceased. He announced a bill passed in December gave a welfare payment to spouses of fallen soldiers but orphans of fallen soldiers didn’t receive a payment, which led to him submitting this bill.

Homefront Security Minister Vilnai (Independence) expressed government support for the bill and said the 224 orphans deserve the welfare payment that their other parent would have received.

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

Amendment to the Sports Bill

MK Miller (Y.B.) condemned MK Ben Simon for his racist statements against the Russian immigrant population the previous day. He explained his amendment would regulate professional sports coaches so that they meet European standards.

Culture and Sport Minister Livnat (Likud) also condemned MK Ben Simon for his racist statements and condemned the timing of his statements, which came on the heels of the racism towards Ethiopians in Kiryat Melachi. She said she was surprised that Ben Simon, an immigrant from France and a former journalist, could say such things and called on him to apologize. She went on to express government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 26-0 and was sent to the Sport Committee.

MK Ben Simon (Labor) was allowed to respond to the charges. MK Miller, MK Ilatov (Y.B.), MK Matalon (Y.B.), MK Kirshenbaum (Y.B.), MK Shemtov (Y.B.) and MK Zeev (Shas) heckled his response. Ben Simon responded that he didn’t think anything he said was racist and that he will keep helping weak minorities like Arabs. He said the Russians are very strong and don’t need his help at all. He apologized if the MKs understood his mocking of a Russian accent and statement that Russians are right wing extremists to be racist.

Amendment to the Lands Bill

MK Orlev (J.H.) explained his amendment would ease the conditions for approval of a plan to strengthen buildings and condominiums against earthquakes. He said bureaucracy has stopped many people from taking action to protect against earthquakes. He added that the bill would require all apartment owners to foot the bill for strengthening the building if 51% of the owners support it.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 27-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

Amendment to the Nazi War Veterans Bill

MK Solodkin (Kadima) said she was not surprised to learn what Ben Simon said about Russians. She told him it was a big mistake, very disrespectful, and expected from a former Haaretz journalist like himself, and it was a good idea for him to apologize. She stressed that just because it might seem that Yisrael Beitenu is anti-Arab, that doesn’t mean that all Russians are anti-Arab, and Ben Simon should watch what he says in the future. She explained her amendment would provide rights for handicapped Nazi War veterans equal to the rights of disabled IDF veterans. She said there are 2,300 handicapped Nazi War veterans who are still alive, with the youngest at the age of 86. She said these people fought for Israel’s future and at their old age should receive the same benefits as IDF veterans. She said the humane thing to do is provide for them as their numbers slowly fade away.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that it would cost about NIS 1.1 billion annually and because 62,000 people would be eligible for compensation the way Solodkin phrased the bill. He suggested turning the bill into a motion and finding a way in committee to draft a new version of the bill that is on a lower scale.

MK Solodkin said Cohen’s numbers are wrong and he is talking about all holocaust survivors and not handicapped Holocaust survivors. She suggested the government should actually read her bills. She expressed regret the government was going to defeat a Holocaust related bill the day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The bill was defeated 14-27.

Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill

MK Bielski (Kadima) explained his amendment would require painting blue all handicapped parking spaces in Israel so that drivers can’t pretend they didn’t see the sign. He said that if the cost of the bill is too high, he is willing to phase in the implementation of the bill gradually over a decade. He even volunteered to find money from his mayor buddies and have some of the local municipalities foot some of the bill. He said the weekly Torah portion of Kedoshim teaches us we must pass this bill.

Science and Technology Minister Hershkowitz (J.H.) stated the weekly torah portion is Bo. He expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that every handicapped parking spot has a sign and it is unnecessary to also paint the spot blue. He noted that Israeli traffic laws follow the European standard.

MK Bielski apologized for mistaking Bo with Kedoshim. He said that the current system isn’t working because people who are not disabled are parking in handicapped spots because they don’t see the signs.

The bill was defeated 15-32.

Amendment to the Inspection of Prices of Commodities and Services Bill

MK Tirosh (Kadima) explained her amendment would regulate whole wheat bread and the new government supervision would result in a national fixed price. She said this was the healthy approach that both doctors and nutritionists support. She said the government’s opposition to the bill is piggish capitalism and wondered how a socialist like Simhon could approve of such a position. She said the price of whole wheat bread should be four shekels and not 19 shekels. She warned that the poor can only afford white bread, which leads to health problems.

Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) said he saw no reason to have supervision on whole wheat or white bread. He said consumers prefer other food, computers, education, culture and so on. He told Tirosh not to make such a big deal over bread. He expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that heavy regulation raises prices and doesn’t lower them.

MK Tirosh said she really didn’t see a connection between whole wheat bread and computers. She stated bread is the most important food item and it should be heavily regulated. She said the government is acting like a piggish capitalist entity that has no emotions and no heart. She told the government they should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves.

Industry and Trade Minister Simhon responded that Tirosh didn’t listen to his answer and defended himself that he isn’t a pig. He noted that 90% of baked goods in Israel are not under supervision and there is no reason to include more items in the supervision list. He said in a free market without regulation, prices go down.

The bill was defeated 14-35.

Amendment to the Consumer Protection Bill

MK Tiviaev (Kadima) explained his amendment would require the notification and marking of monitored items along with their required price. He said there are 20 food items that are under government supervision and the public should have a right to know what they are and how much they are supposed to cost. He slammed the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs and called the ministers who sit on the committee liars. He said every minister told him they supported the bill, yet the bill didn’t win government support. He said it must be a black hole. He blamed the capitalist government for opposing his logical bill. He charged Simhon is trying to split Kadima into two like he split Labor into two. He called the government and Simhon liars.

Industry and Trade Minister Simhon said he isn’t a liar and he supported Tiviaev’s bill. He added that he is proud of splitting Labor and he doesn’t need to split Kadima because it will split into pieces on its own. He said he planned to take most of the idea and pass it off as a ministerial provision. He suggested Tiviaev wait 30 days to see if he is successful in his provision plan and if not he would support the bill in its preliminary reading. Tiviaev agreed to wait 28 days.

Motion/Amendment to the Income Support Bill

MK Sarsur (R.T.) explained his amendment would allow an entitlement benefit for those who left Israel more than once during the year. He stated the current situation is that welfare benefits are not given for the calendar months in which someone is out of Israel unless they only leave Israel once a year. He noted his bill allows up to three trips abroad per year.

Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) said the government opposes the bill but he wishes to come to an understanding with Sarsur on some sort of compromise. He asked Sarsur to turn the bill into a motion and discuss with him the issues that led to the law in committee. Sarsur agreed.

The motion passed 18-0 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.

Motion/Amendment to the Social Security Bill

MK Agbaria (Hadash) explained his amendment would increase social security payments for retired Israelis with many children, as opposed to the current law that only provides additional payments for up to two children. He said in today’s day and age, many people have children under 18 when they enter retirement, and since the children are under 18, their retired parents are expected to provide for them. He said the bill would add a percentage per child ratio and would cost around NIS six million annually. He agreed to Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon’s offer to turn the bill into a motion in order to discuss the matter further in committee and find some kind of agreement.

The motion passed 18-1 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.

Amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance Bill

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) explained his amendment would raise child welfare payments for large families to the levels they were before then Finance Minister Netanyahu in former Prime Minister Sharon’s government chose to lower them in order to encourage large families to go out and work. He said children cost a lot of money to raise and, as a tax payer, he deserves some of it back for raising the population. He called for justice, social justice. He said 40% tax brackets don’t encourage people to work, it is what encourages them to sit on their sofa. He said the lowering of welfare entitlements also does not encourage people to work. He said there are people who choose to have more children with their money instead of flying overseas to spend their money there, and for whatever reason the government is supporting the wrong one.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen expressed government opposition to the bill due to budget constraints. He said the government wants to support the bill but can’t add another NIS 2.5 billion to the budget. He went on to blast Yair Lapid for trying to get a third degree before passing his first degree. He listed the many MKs in the room who have three degrees without skipping anything.

MK Ben Ari defended his bill as fair and told Cohen and the government to stop being so greedy and to start sharing some of the wealth with the citizens.

The bill was defeated 4-29.

Amendment to the Former Captives Payment Bill

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) explained his amendment would provide a special one-time grant for the 1,500 elderly former captives of the War of Independence, the youngest among them 86 years old. He said these few people should be thanked by the country and shouldn’t die off because they are in poverty. He stressed the bill is very important to him, so he will postpone the vote on the bill until he receives government support.

Construction, Removal and Restoration of Kfar Shalem Areas Bill x4

MK Akunis (Likud) explained his original bill and the three similar bills attached to his will help the people of the Kfar Shalem neighborhood in Tel Aviv receive financial compensation for their temporary removal from their homes for the purpose of upgrading them. He slammed the municipality of Tel Aviv for opposing the bill and thanked the government for not picking sides on this one. He announced the cost of the bill is a one-time fee of NIS four million. He thanked MK Michaeli (Shas), MK Hasson and MK Gilon (Meretz), who attached their bills to his.

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) slammed Tel Aviv Mayor Huldai and said this bill is one of the most important bills he has written since he entered the Knesset and the government better not back down now.

Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) stated the government does not have an official position on any of the four bills and the coalition may vote as they please. He revealed that he will be voting for all four.

The bills passed their preliminary readings 36-0, 33-0-1, 34-0 and 34-0. The bills were merged and sent to the House Committee to determine which committee will discuss them further.

Amendment to the Companies Bill

MK Gal-On (Meretz) explained her amendment would require special arrangements for creditors under the supervision of the law. She said this bill will prevent companies that receive government money from doing whatever they want with it, especially if the government is paying their debts. She expressed hope this type of supervision would lead to transparency of the companies and might cause certain big businesses to split up into separate entities. She stated when a big company goes bankrupt, sometimes the government ends up in a loss of billions of shekels. She suggested this bill would help banks take a look at a large company before blindly giving out a big loan. She called on the government to listen to the people and not the business tycoons.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bill but stressed the bill will go through many revisions in the committee discussions.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 25-0 and was sent to the House Committee to determine which committee will discuss the bill further.

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This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s January 25, 2012, session.

Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/00604712.doc

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