The Knesset’s Wednesday session lasted about seven and a half hours. Eight bills were discussed. Three bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, one was turned into a motion, one was withdrawn in order to prevent defeat, and three were defeated. The bills advanced would grant women born before 1931 who receive an old age pension an additional allowance, change the perception of anorexia under law so that it is treated as a mental illness, and allow tax deductions to encourage settlements. Among the bills defeated were two that deal with the ultra-orthodox and Arabs serving in some sort of civilian service. A particularly interesting day caused a spike in attendance.

 

Non-Bills Summary

* Deputy Prime Minister Ya’alon (Likud), Deputy Education Minister Moses (U.T.J.) and Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) answered queries to open the session.

* Ten motions were discussed on a wide range of topics. Nine of the motions were sent to committee for further discussion by the votes 8-0, 8-0, 5-0, 10-0, 5-2, 5-0, 6-0, 5-0 and 7-0. One motion was not voted on.

* Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch answered 12 queries at the end of the session.

Bills Summary

 

Amendment to the Social Security Bill

MK Gafni (U.T.J.) explained his amendment would grant eligibility for an allowance in addition to an old age pension that housewives and widows born before 1931 receive. He said that a 1996 amendment prevents women who were born before 1931 from receiving the allowance for budget reasons. He revealed that he learned about this technicality when he was confronted by a woman on a radio program and pledged to fix the situation. He confessed the bill will cost between NIS 25-30 million a year but stressed that the cost will decrease every year. He said the current situation is unequal and must be rectified as soon as possible. He praised the media for bringing this subject to his attention. He went on to slam the Supreme Court for repeatedly discriminating against the ultra-orthodox Jews in court cases. He said there is no justice, integrity or equality in the Supreme Court.

Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) expressed government support for the bill. He said these women who are over the age of 80 and are eligible for the program number 6,200 and will cost the government NIS 34 million a year. He said that his ministry is pouring NIS 28 million into the program.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 28-0 and was sent to the Funds Committee.

Amendment to the Treatment of Mental Patients Bill

MK Adatto (Kadima) explained her amendment would force involuntary hospitalization for those with mental disorders, including anorexia. She went on to speak about the dangers of anorexia and noted there are more young women who die from anorexia than traffic accidents or cancer. She said last year in the Tel Hashomer hospital alone 22 girls checked themselves out of the hospital against their doctors’ wishes and died. She said her amendment would treat anorexia as a mental disorder and prevent their discharge in cases where the doctors want to keep the patient hospitalized. She said this bill will save lives.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) expressed government support for the bill, although he thinks this bill isn’t necessary.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 40-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.

Amendment to the Students’ Rights Bill

MK Khenin (Hadash) explained his amendment would bring equality and transparency to the admission process for educational institutions. He said that there is widespread discrimination of minority groups and charged they are not accepted to certain schools because of racist motives. He said his bill would also allow a parent to appeal a decision by a school if they feel they were discriminated against. He said an educational institution that breaks his law would be subject to a NIS 50,000 fine. He said he would pull his bill from a vote in order to convince the government to support it.

Amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance Bill

MK Elkin (Likud) explained his amendment would allow non-profit organizations to recognize funds used to encourage settlement in the Negev and the Galil as a tax deduction. He said that the country has stopped encouraging settlement and it is time the non-profits received recognition for picking up the slack.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) expressed government support for the bill.

MK Shai (Kadima) announced he opposed the bill on the grounds that Judea and Samaria are included in the bill. He said that Kadima is against the bill. MK Schneller (Kadima) countered that Kadima supports the bill. The two of them argued until Speaker Rivlin silenced the dispute.

MK Gal-On (Meretz) announced that she and Meretz are against the bill. She said this bill is meant to help Judea and Samaria and her party can’t support it. She said that two thirds of the NGOs are ultra-orthodox and the right think they are hurting the left. Deputy Ministers Litzman and Moses got into an argument with Gal-On, and Speaker Rivlin threw Moses out. Gal-On slammed the government and the bill and told everyone to oppose the bill.

MK Elkin responded that he is proud that his name is one that makes them think of Judea and Samaria. He rejected the claims that is a Judea and Samaria bill and stressed it is a Negev and Galil bill. He said that instead of helping the leftist voters they are blinded by their hatred for Judea and Samaria. He told them they should be embarrassed that they are leftist and voting against the Negev and Galil.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 49-20 and was sent to the Funds Committee.

Amendment to the Social Workers Bill/Motion

MK Solodkin (Kadima) complained that social workers constantly remove children from their parents too quickly and before they really check the situation out. She said problematic social workers must be punished. She said that a social worker’s testimony always carries the most weight in child custody cases. She noted that many times the court sends the children back to their parents, but the scars the children encounter are great. She explained her bill would punish social workers who are found guilty of perjury with a fine of NIS 25,000 and a jail sentence of 7-9 years. She slammed the government for not supporting her bill but agreed to turn the bill into a motion to enable a committee discussion on the subject.

Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon thanked Solodkin for agreeing to turn the bill into a motion.

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

Amendment to the Government Bill

MK Whbee (Kadima) explained his amendment would allow MK participation in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation when an MK’s bill is being discussed. He slammed the government for having 40 ministers and deputy ministers. He blasted the government for opposing another common sense bill. He stressed it is important that the MK sponsoring the legislation be there to explain his bill to the ministers who need to make a decision on it. He said a lot of misunderstandings would be avoided if the MK were there in the room. He thanked his co-sponsor MK Levin (Likud) for trying to convince the government to think otherwise. He said allowing the MK to explain his bill is elementary. He said this bill will help the coalition and the opposition. He noted that his bill doesn’t ask that the MK attend the voting or ask for a protocol of what was said after the MK left the room. He slammed Justice Minister Neeman, who is the chairman of the ministerial committee, for not showing up to explain his views.

Deputy Prime Minister Ya’alon (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that the executive branch of government doesn’t need to include the legislative branch in its decisions. He said that as it is the committee meetings are too long and this would only make them longer.

MK Whbee responded that allowing an MK three times a year to explain a bill that is important to them will not make the sessions longer. He said the government’s decision to oppose this bill is yet another reason why this is a bad government that must be replaced.

The bill was defeated 21-35 with one MK abstaining.

Civil Service Bill

Opposition Leader Livni explained MK Yoel Hasson’s bill would require every Israeli citizen to serve in the army or serve their country in some sort of civil service. She said it is not fair that some sectors of Israelis serve and sacrifice while others do not. She said there is no equality in Israel and blamed the ultra-orthodox leaders for keeping their sector out of the army. She said it is not fair that the ultra-orthodox take advantage of the entire country. She said this bill will create a real unity. She told the ultra-orthodox that she will force them to serve their country. She said this deserting of the army is ripping the country apart and called on the rabbis to support her bill. She said Israel can no longer pray for a miracle to save us from our enemies; it needs soldiers. She said all citizens must serve and work, and that is the only just way. She said that there will be no more free meals.

Science and Technology Minister Hershkowitz (J.H.) reminded Opposition Leader Livni that is was the Kadima government that extended the Tal Law for five years in 2007 and she voted for it. He expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that a similar bill written by the government will be brought up for a vote in a few weeks. He said the government bill is a better version of MK Hasson’s bill and the government doesn’t see a reason to support this version. He said that there are many Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews who serve in civil service and their numbers are growing every year. He went on to say this bill isn’t the Tal Law or a replacement for it. He confessed that he believes that every citizen must serve the country but disagreed that this bill was the way to accomplish it. He gave a story of his grandfather who was turned away from army service decades ago because he was ultra-orthodox. He went on to say that he feels that it is mandatory to serve in the army as a Jew, but real solutions need to be proposed, not problematic bills full of holes. He said any change must be gradual and done smartly. He said the Supreme Court wants to expedite the move. He said that even he feels that the 1,800 ultra-orthodox Jews in civil service isn’t high enough but that it is better than nothing. He said these are heavy issues, and politics must be taken out of the equation. He stated the government is working on an alternative to the Tal Law based on views from all coalition partners.

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said that Livni spoke on his behalf and on behalf of all of Kadima. He attacked MK Gafni and told him that he has no clue what the ultra-orthodox youth want. Hasson said that he isn’t anti-ultra-orthodox but he is anti watching them not serve in the army and not enter the work force. He asked why ultra-orthodox Jews in New York learn and work but in Bnei Brak they only learn. He said that he supports allowing a minority to learn in Yeshiva, just like a minority is allowed to be exempted to pursue athletic and sport achievements. He said that he believes in cooperation, but sometimes the ultra-orthodox only understand power and strength. He said that Yisrael Beitenu should support the bill during the roll call.

The bill was defeated 27-55.

Amendment to the Security Service Bill

MK Shai (Kadima) explained his amendment would force the performance of civil service or national service for those who don’t serve regular service. He read passages from the Torah which call on Jews to serve in the army. He called on the ultra-orthodox to respect those passages and serve the country. He said that the burden of service should apply to everybody. He praised the Supreme Court decision to let the Tal Law expire on August 1, 2012. He called on the Knesset to approve his bill and stop the ultra-orthodox who he said are using the country like an ATM machine. He charged that the ultra-orthodox take from the country but never give back. He said those who want to receive must learn to give. He said Jewish history is full of religious Jews who gave their lives in wars to preserve the Jewish country of Israel. He said his bill would apply to all citizens, Jews and Arabs, and the army would choose who they want for the military and who would go to national or civil service. He said in a few decades only 40% of youth will serve in the army. He called those who will go to the army at that point suckers compared to those who won’t. He said that changing the demographics in the country is impossible but something must be done to create equality. He closed with a poem by Bialik.

Minister Begin (Likud) thanked MK Shai for a beautiful speech and agreed that this is an important issue. He said the government is considering alternatives to the Tal Law following the Supreme Court decision not to allow its extension. He said the country does not have the ability to force service on such a large sector of the population and any solution must be consensual. He said that today the army isn’t equipped to draft the great numbers of ultra-orthodox Jews from any perspective. He said alternatives will be discussed and the government will find a way to encourage the ultra-orthodox and Arabs to serve in civil service. He called on the Knesset to oppose the bill. He called on public leaders to be careful of what they say in public. He said that he is not convinced that every sector in society should be treated the same, and time will tell how this issue is resolved.

The bill was defeated 23-40.

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This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s February 22, 2012, session.

Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/01160712.doc

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