The Knesset’s Wednesday session lasted about seven hours. 15 bills were discussed. Eight bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, and seven bills were defeated. The bills advanced would force mobile phone companies to warn their consumers of the dangers of using their products; increase the pension of Independence War veterans; transfer information from the population registry to the parties before party primaries; grant an additional payment to soldiers who exceed the maximum number of reserve days a year; require politicians not registered in a party to follow the rules of supervision and transparency that apply to registered parties; and, lastly, require companies to disclose what cut they receive when they recommend a different businesses product to a consumer.

 

Non-Bills Summary

* Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) answered two queries at the beginning of the session.

* House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced that MK Shnaan (Independence) will replace MK Wilf (Independence) in the Funds, State Comptroller, and Science and Technology Committees. He also announced that MK Shai (Kadima) will replace MK Tiviaev (Kadima) in a subcommittee.

* House Committee Chairman Levin announced a long list of disputed bills and motions and which committees will discuss them. He asked the Knesset to approve the request, and they did with a 7-0 vote.

* Six motions were discussed on a wide variety of topics. The motions were sent to committee by the votes 9-4, 11-0, 7-3, 5-0, 2-0 and 4-0.

Bills Summary

 

Notification of Dangers of Usage of a Mobile Phone Bill x2

MK Shamalov Berkovich (Kadima) explained her bill would require the mobile phone companies to notify users of the dangers of the device. She said mobile phones have taken over our lives and every little thing is connected to the phones. She said that many studies teach us that cell phones can cause cancer and even change the human DNA. She went on to list the dangers of cell phones and asked if they were worth it. She told parents that they should be ashamed of themselves for giving their children cell phones and warned that children under 16 have their brains fried from cell phones.

MK Khenin (Hadash) announced his similar bill would require protection of using a mobile phone and restrict advertising in many cases. He said the part of his bill that would be advancing would require the mobile phone companies to notify its customers of its dangers.

Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) expressed government support for the bills. He said the government doesn’t know if cell phones cause cancer, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful and support this bill. He said it is easier for people to lower their cell phone consumption than to complain to their municipality about antennas.

The first bill passed its preliminary reading 18-0 and was sent to the House Committee to decide which committee would discuss it further.

The second bill passed its preliminary reading 22-0 and was sent to the House Committee to decide which committee would discuss it further.

Amendment to the Former Captives’ Payment Bill x2

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) explained his amendment would provide a 25% increase in the financial grant for elderly former captives who were captured during the Independence War.

MK Elkin (Likud) explained his similar amendment would accomplish the same thing. He thanked the government for supporting the bills and asked the Knesset to advance the bill as soon as possible. He noted most of the people in question are over the age of 80 and need the money yesterday.

Minister Begin (Likud) expressed government support for the bill. He said the bill will cost around five million shekels a year. He said former captives over the age of 67 receive NIS 14,500 annually and those eligible will see a raise of close to 5,000.

The first bill passed its preliminary reading 19-0 and was sent to the Defense Committee.

The second bill passed its preliminary reading 20-0 and was sent to the Defense Committee.

Amendment to the Parties Bill

MK Levin (Likud) thanked his co-sponsors MK Plesner (Kadima) and MK Cabel (Labor) for making this a multi-party issue. He said that primaries are a complicated process and the voting list of each party is constantly changing. He noted since the last elections there are new voters, some voters have died, and other have changed their addresses. He explained the amendment would require the population registry to transfer the information they provide before the national elections on other dates for the purpose of conducting primary elections. He said that since this information is already being transferred there is no reason not to update it more frequently in order to help the primary process.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bill.

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) said he agrees with the purpose of the bill but disagrees with its methodology because it doesn’t fix the primary process.

MK Levin agreed there are a lot of problems with the current primary system but stressed this is a step in the right direction and asked the Knesset to approve it.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 37-2 with one MK abstaining and was sent to the House Committee.

Amendment to the Reserve Service Bill

MK Cabel (Labor) said those who think we can draft all of the ultra-orthodox with the end of the Tal Law without finding a place to put them is wrong. He said that when it comes to the reserve, the numbers drop significantly. He said that is the real place where the burden of service is not equal. He said people who leave their families for reserve duty must be compensated. He explained his amendment would grant an additional payment to soldiers who exceed the maximum number of reserve days a year. He expressed hope this would change the army’s priorities and they will start respecting the maximum number of reserve days a year or pay up significantly.

Culture and Sport Minister Livnat (Likud) expressed government support for the bill. She noted this bill will cost the defense establishment dozens of millions of shekels.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 31-0 and was sent to the Defense Committee.

Amendment to the National Health Insurance Bill

MK Agbaria (Hadash) explained his amendment would maintain citizens’ health insurance coverage while they are outside of Israel. He said many young citizens go overseas for years to university and lose out on their Israeli health care.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that someone who is out of Israel for six months straight shouldn’t receive Israeli coverage overseas. He added that it used to be a two-year requirement; he lowered it to six months, and his ministry has saved a lot of money. He went on discuss his solution to the doctor crisis which is allowing foreign trained doctors from OECD countries to transfer their medical license to Israel.

MK Agbaria said a person who pays for Israeli health care should receive Israeli health care.

The bill was defeated 17-34.

Running Public Transportation on Weekly Day of Rest Bill

MK Horowitz (Meretz) said that Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) drives on the Sabbath but prevents others from using public transportation. He said that Katz can allow public transportation but chooses not to. He said many people want to use public transportation but the so called status quo harms them. He said that forcing people to work on Sabbath doesn’t harm the workers and he stresses that as a proud socialist. He said pollution, heavy traffic and traffic accidents are always the worst on the Sabbath and that is why his bill that would force the running of public transportation on the Sabbath is so necessary. He said the government is grounding the public to their homes. He said just like former Prime Minister Begin was once in the minority and became the majority, he will be as well. He said just like the Tal Law was overturned, one day the status quo will be overturned and civil marriage would be passed. He said this is a free country and the time will come where the people revolt against the ultra-orthodox’s standing in government.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds of keeping the status quo balance of religious and non-religious citizens. He said it is important to take into account the feelings of religious people who are bothered by transportation in their neighborhoods on the Sabbath. He reminded Horowitz that Meretz complains about the status quo when they are in the opposition but are silent when they are in the coalition. He concluded that buses in Haifa on the Sabbath have an average of four passengers per bus.

MK Horowitz said that religion works when it isn’t forced. He said people fast on Yom Kippur and perform a brit milah because they aren’t forced to. He said that when Meretz is in the government their message is heard and they brought peace and human rights to Israel.

The bill was defeated 10-35.

Amendment to the Parties Bill

MK Levin explained his amendment would fix a loophole in Israeli law so that people who enter the political realm will have the duty of registering their party. He said it is unacceptable that people can start a political campaign without the transparency and supervision required of existing political parties. He said people can throw millions at a candidate and the public would have no idea who it is from. He thanked his co-sponsors, MK Schneller (Kadima) and MK Ben Simon (Labor), for making this a multi-party issue. He said this bill isn’t meant for Yair Lapid, it is meant for everybody.

MK Khenin objected to the bill and said everybody should be allowed to run for public office. He said that he doesn’t like Yair Lapid, but he must be allowed to run for Knesset. He blasted the bill and called it delusional.

MK Levin said he was surprised that Khenin supports someone who is receiving funds from unknown people without supervision or transparency. He asked Khenin if it is okay that Lapid is using loopholes and should we not close them. He called on the Knesset to approve the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 33-18 and was sent to the House Committee.

Amendment to the Gas Tax Bill

MK Yoel Hasson slammed Prime Minister Netanyahu for entering the plenum to support Levin’s bill. He blasted Netanyahu for sending Levin to do his bidding, slammed him for raising the gas tax every year starting in 2009, and attacked him for running away from the plenum. He said in 2008 Kadima had a 38% tax on gas and in 2009 Netanyahu raised it to 56%. He said a gas tax of 56% is ridiculous. He called on the government to listen to the cries of the people and lower the tax and the gas price. He explained his amendment would lower taxation on gas to 30%. He went on to blast the tax on the tax. He concluded no one wants to pay 8 shekels a liter.

Minister Begin said Israel isn’t the only country that has high gas prices and isn’t the only country to have a tax on a tax. He suggested MK Hasson calm down and not work himself up. He expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that the gas taxes are on par with many other countries. He said this bill would cost 1.4 billion shekels a year and the country can’t afford that. He reminded Hasson that Israel has the lowest unemployment level in 32 years and Israel’s economy is doing just fine.

MK Bar-On (Kadima) decided to give a history lesson. He said the high gas taxes were a response to the second intifada and were raised again in response to the global economic crisis of 2008. He said the current tax levels are higher than they should be and there is no reason for them to be at that level since the economy is doing well nationally and internationally. He called the current level a daytime robbery and said he is looking forward to the roll call voting.

The bill was defeated 25-36.

MK Shama (Likud) responded that Hasson and Bar-On wrongly accused him of ruining Israel’s economy. Deputy Speaker Vaknin (Shas) called Bar-On to order and told him that he can’t keep acting like a bully. He said that this bill is irresponsible and wouldn’t pass in any parliament around the world.

MK Bar-On said that Shama and Vaknin didn’t follow proper Knesset protocol.

Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill

MK Whbee (Kadima) explained his amendment would limit large commercial vehicles from passing cars in three lane highways. He said there are 359,000 trucks on the road and 4,228 of them have been involved in traffic accidents. He slammed the government for rarely sending the relevant minister to answer the questions he raises on the proposed bills.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman said he agrees with Whbee that the relevant minister should present the government’s answer to each bill. He expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that preventing trucks from passing cars is excessive. He went on to discuss the weekly Torah portion of Tetzaveh and why Moses is not found in it.

The bill was defeated 15-26.

Amendment to the Basic Law: The Knesset

MK Sheetrit explained his amendment would raise the threshold for a party to enter the Knesset to 5%, which is a level that is accepted in many parliaments around the world. He said small parties are problematic and must be abolished. He recalled when he brought up this bill in 1999 it fell by two votes because Labor supported the Arab parties in a corrupt bargain that later brought down the Likud government. He recalled Rivlin and Eitan supported the bill in 1999. He said a fellow Kadima MK suggested this law might wipe Kadima off the map and Sheetrit responded it is better Kadima ceases to exist if they can’t receive 5%. He said this bill will force the Arab parties to merge into one and the other small parties will merge with larger ones. He recalled when the two largest parties had 95 seats in the early 80s he still couldn’t pass this bill because of the small parties’ games. He said the time has come to put an end to the small parties.

Bureaucracy Minister Eitan (Likud) said there is an interest in allowing people’s voices to matter and to allow a minority the chance to be a part of the game. He agreed on the other hand that finding a balance so the larger parties can govern is difficult. He said under Sheetrit’s bill hundreds of thousands of votes would disappear and the larger parties would gain from those votes. He added that parties would be able to bypass this bill by joining up before elections and splitting after. He expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that coalition parties oppose the bill.

The bill was defeated 13-40.

Amendment to the Value Added Tax Bill

Minister Begin explained the government opposes MK Sheetrit’s bill proposed at an earlier date that would eliminate the VAT on the gas tax. He gave no reason.

MK Sheetrit responded that a tax on a tax is unacceptable and should be abolished. He said there is a VAT on 50% of the gas price, which is the actual gas price, and there is a VAT on the other 50%, which is a gas tax. He said a tax on a tax is something that hurts the middle and lower sectors of society. He said the government can just transfer the VAT’s worth to the gas tax and at least there won’t be a tax on a tax. He reminded the MKs that Coalition Chairman Elkin (Likud) was his co-sponsor.

The bill was defeated 18-29.

Amendment to the Courts Bill

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) explained his amendment would classify those who didn’t serve in the military, national or civilian service as unfit to serve as a judge in the Supreme Court. He agreed that this would discriminate against Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews who didn’t serve in one of those three places but asked how can these people decide on these key subjects if they never served. He slammed the Supreme Court Justice who refused to sing the national anthem and called for his resignation. He read out national anthems that are controversial yet Jews that live in those countries still sing those national anthems. He noted Native Americans sing the American national anthem despite the fact they were massacred by the white man. He stated someone who didn’t serve the country and feel the burden can’t decide for everyone else. He asked Foreign Minister Liberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party how they can vote against his bill when their campaign slogan was “No Loyalty – No Citizenship”.

Bureaucracy Minister Eitan expressed government opposition to the bill. He said that he agrees there should be certain qualifications to serve as a Supreme Court justice but disagrees that carrying the burden of serving their country is one of them. He said this penalizes and excludes entire population groups from serving on the Supreme Court.

MK Ben Ari responded that Arabs and ultra-orthodox are allowed to serve in civilian service and if they do they can serve on the Supreme Court. He said it is unacceptable that non-Zionist justices can decide what happens in key cases in the Zionistic state. He told Kadima this is a bill they would have proposed themselves and they should support it.

The bill was defeated 4-29.

Amendment to the Consumer Protection Bill

MK Shama (Likud) explained his amendment would require the disclosure of additional compensation companies receive as a result of a business transaction. He said if someone is recommending a product and he gets a piece of it, they will now need to disclose that to the consumer.

Deputy Speaker Akunis (Likud) called for a vote because a minister was not present to present the government’s position on the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 8-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

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This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s February 29, 2012, session.

Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/01292112.doc

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