The Knesset’s Monday session lasted about five and a half hours. 16 bills were discussed. Seven bills became law after passing their third readings, and nine bills were advanced after passing their first readings. The Jewish opposition parties of Kadima, Labor, National Union and Meretz decided not to bring no-confidence motions in order to support the government during the escalation of rocket attacks on Israeli soil. The 16-bill day was just another sign that this is the second to last week before the spring recess. The Knesset enjoyed an unusually long five day weekend after the previous Wednesday session was cancelled for the Jewish holiday of Purim. The day had some of the most interesting bills of the session. Among the new laws are prohibitions on assisting illegals, preventing women from draft dodging and a one-time NIS 100,000 welfare payment to orphans who lost a parent from a terrorist attack or during the parent’s army service.

 

Non-Bills Summary

* Hadash, Ra’am-Ta’al and Balad’s joint no-confidence motion titled ‘The escalation in South’ was defeated 4-40 with 76 MKs not present.

* House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced MK Tibi (R.T.) will replace MK Itzik (Kadima) in the Finance Committee.

* House Committee Chairman Levin announced which disputed bills would be discussed in which committees.

* Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) announced the government’s transfer of certain powers from his ministry to Justice Minister Neeman. The Knesset approved the transfer 11-0.

* Communications Minister Kahlon (Likud) announced the government’s transfer of certain powers from his ministry to Minister Meridor (Likud). The Knesset approved the transfer 14-0.

* Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon answered six queries at the end of the session.

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Illegal Residence Bill

Interior Committee Chairman Cohen (Shas) explained the current temporary amendment that prohibits assistance to ilegals in terms of hiring, transporting or providing sleeping accommodations for them would become a permanent amendment. He said that certain sections would remain as temporary amendments, mostly in regards to taxi drivers who transport illegals. He called on the Knesset to defeat Hadash’s objections to the bill.

MK Khenin (Hadash) said hard cases make bad law. He said these laws go too far and turn every illegal into a criminal and turn those who help them into criminals. He said that this bill forces taxi drivers to racially profile their passengers. He called the bill absurd and said it gives cab drivers the powers of a policeman or a soldier. He called it a racist bill that makes a cab driver’s job so much harder. He said these were temporary provisions because Israel dreamed of peace but turning these provisions into a permanent law shows that Israel has given up on that dream.

MK Barakeh (Hadash) called the bill crazy. He said that there is a high level of security in Israel and the Palestinians act as their policemen in the territories so there is really no need for this bill. He said the foundation of logic for this law is seriously flawed. He called this bill another Israeli attempt to turn its public into racists and tell the Arabs who is boss. He said there is not one documented case of a terrorist who entered a cab told the driver to start meter and blew himself up.

MK Eldad (N.U.) said there are those who look at Israel as a Jewish safe house and that led to an ideology that we can give away parts of the safe house in order to achieve peace. He said the land for peace didn’t work, so it led to land for demographics. He said those who tell us we must give away land because of the demographic problem and then tell us we must in the name of liberalism and human rights allow illegals to live in our land are hypocrites. He said the true motive of these liberals is to give up on Zionism and Judaism and allow Arabs and Sudanese to raise families here. He called on the liberal politicians to stop holding both sides of the stick and decide if they had to choose between their hatred of the Jewish people and their hatred of the Jewish state which one they would give up on.

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) read a Ma’ariv columnist piece where the columnist went to a joint Israeli Jewish-Arab event. She described her shock as they told her that the Jews stole their land and conquered their nation. Ben Ari said that these Arabs want to destroy us, and there are Jews who cooperate with them. He said the safe house argument is passé, and the next generation is starting to question that motive. He said Zionism doesn’t start from Tel Chai, it started with Abraham in the Torah. He called on the government to raise children in the right way. He said the true answer is that this is our land and no one else’s land.

The bills paragraphs passed their second readings 37-7, 35-7 and 34-8.

The objections were defeated 8-35, 8-35 and 8-33.

The bill passed its third reading 34-8.

Amendment to the Parties Bill

House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) explained his amendment would require transparency, accounting and limitations on the income and expenditure of politicians before their party’s registration. He thanked MK Schneller for co-sponsoring his bill. He said that fundraising without transparency by using a technical loophole of not registering your party until you have the money is unacceptable. He slammed Yair Lapid for attempting to use these loopholes and said this must be stopped as soon as possible. He blasted Yair Lapid for using his job as a news anchor to lead a political campaign and charged he only resigned because of a different bill that forced him to do so. He asked how someone can campaign across the country without revealing his donors, when every other person or party reveals his. He said the public deserves to know who is sending Lapid to the Knesset and what it is they want him to do. He said everyone should be equal in the political playing field, and this bill will enable that.

MK Molla (Kadima) said that the current electoral system has bigger problems, and this is a minor issue. He said the current system must be changed from its foundation, and this approach of fixing a minor thing is not worth our time. He slammed the ultra-orthodox parties for their exclusion of female representatives.

MK Khenin repeated that hard cases make bad law. He complemented Levin for confessing it is a personal bill aimed at Yair Lapid. He said that although he disagrees with Lapid politically, he is for transparency and thinks that Lapid’s basic rights should be free. He said the real transparency should be regulating or prohibiting the free daily newspaper Yisrael Hayom that is funded by Netanyahu’s friend [Sheldon Adelson]. He expressed his opposition to the bill.

MK Schneller (Kadima) expressed his solidarity with the citizens in the south who are under rocket fire. He said every party has their media tools and singling out the Likud is an issue in the same vain as that laid out in Molla’s speech about needing a bigger reform. He said that Israelis want transparency and are sick of the connection between big money interests and politicians. He added that Israelis want equality and separation of money from politics. He said everyone knows this is a great bill and praised MK Levin for coming up with the idea.

The bill passed its first reading 29-4 and was sent to the House Committee.

Amendment to the Social Security Bill

Justice, Law and Constitution Committee Chairman Rotem (Y.B.) explained the amendment would reduce a citizen’s pension by 50% if they commit a crime with nationalistic motives or have a connection to terrorist activity. He said that he wanted to eliminate the pension completely, but the government decided to agree only to a 50% reduction in order not to punish the family of the terrorist.

MK Barakeh said that this bill is not worthy at all. He said this bill punishes the spouse and children who didn’t do anything or commit any crime. He asked why terrorists’ families are being punished but rapists’ and drug dealers’ families are not. He called Rotem a racist.

MK Zahalka (Balad) said this is a bad bill that contradicts the foundation of law and equality. He said that it is not acceptable to give an additional punishment after the criminal receives the first punishment from the court of law. He said changing the punishment in the middle of serving that punishment is not acceptable. He said Rotem and Yisrael Beitenu are against the Arabs and are trying to use their position to promote and pass their racist laws. He said this collective punishment should be opposed and defeated.

MK Zeev (Shas) recalled the Supreme Court decision that destroying a terrorist’s house is legal and will make terrorists think twice before engaging in such conduct. He said this is just another step in that direction. He reminded Zahalka that the United States has kept prisoners in Guantanamo Bay without trial for a decade, so he should be happy Israel has not gone that far.

The bill passed its first reading 24-5 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.

Temporary Amendment to the Security Service Bill

Coalition Chairman Elkin (Likud) announced that women who eat kosher at home and keep the Sabbath may be exempted from military service, but many secular women have decided to use that loophole in order to get out of serving in the army. He explained this temporary amendment would present the army tools in figuring out which women are tricking the system in order to draft them into the army. He blasted the hundreds of secular women who use this loophole each year and told them that it will be closed very soon. He said this is a balanced bill that will allow religious women to still receive exemptions.

MK Herzog (Labor) said this is a big breakthrough in the struggle for equality in the burden of service. He said it is time to take the fakers and put them back into the army. He said that this temporary amendment is for three years and afterwards it will need to be turned into a permanent bill.

MK Gafni (U.T.J.) opposed the bill said there is no consensus on the bill. He said his party and the Rabbis are against forcing any woman to serve in the army. He said that he isn’t out to protect liars, but women should not be part of the mandatory draft and should only be allowed in the army if they volunteer. He called on his party’s deputy ministers to vote against this bill and follow their ideology. He noted that this was a bill that Kadima wrote in the previous term and it is now the Likud who decided to advance it. He warned the coalition that he and his party are not in the Likud’s pocket and they will seriously consider joining forces with the left after the next elections. He revealed that former Prime Minister Sharon told him that he would leave the Likud to form a new party before the other MKs knew and Gafni told him not to do it. He said that it was a mistake to tell Sharon not to leave the Likud and he is happy that Sharon didn’t listen to him. He concluded that Likud is not grateful for anything his party has sacrificed for them.

MK Eldad said that it is mitzvah [good deed] for everyone to serve in the army, and it is not a mitzvah to lie.

The bill passed its second reading 19-5.

The bill passed its third reading 21-5.

Amendment to the Banking Bill

Funds Committee Chairman Gafni explained the amendment would change the make-up of the directorship of banks as well as increase government supervision on all bank share holders that own over 1%. He said there are a few other minor changes that update basic bank regulations. He said that this bill was advanced with compromises made by the bank owners and the government, and the result is a very balanced bill. He said the most important change in this bill is allowing the government to sell off its shares of Bank Leumi.

The bill passed its second reading 15-0.

The bill passed its third reading 14-0.

Amendment to the Higher Education Bill

Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) stated there are eight universities and 67 recognized higher education colleges in Israel. He said this amendment would allow the ministry to fund recognized higher education facilities that were not previously funded.

The bill passed its first reading 9-0 and was sent to the Education Committee.

Amendment to the Electricity Bill

Tourism Minister Misezhnikov (Y.B.) explained the amendment would transfer certain responsibilities of controlling the national electric company from the Finance Minister to the Energy and Water Minister.

The bill passed its first reading 11-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Temporary Amendment to the Engineers and Architects Bill

Minister Misezhnikov stated there are over 9,000 engineers and architects in Israel and the amendment would change their annual fees from a one year license to a three year license. He said this would be a temporary amendment for three years and the government would decide if they want to make the change permanent at that time.

The bill passed its first reading 12-0 and was sent to the Labor Committee.

Amendment to the Prison Ordinance Bill

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) explained the amendment would allow him to limit a prisoner’s meeting with lawyers. He noted that certain security prisoners use these lawyer visits to engage in terrorist activity, and certain prisoners have dozens of lawyer visits a year even if their case is closed. He said that there are terrorists who take advantage of this loophole, and it must be closed.

MK Zeev expressed support for the bill as long as it only applies to terrorists. Aharonovitch responded that it will only be used for terrorists, mobsters and drug dealers. Zeev agreed to support the bill.

The bill passed its first reading 13-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

Amendment to the Civil Service Bill

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) explained the amendment would increase the pensions of policemen and prison servicemen by 5%-12% depending on their service length and rank. He said the changes would be retroactive to 2008 and spouses and orphans are eligible to receive the remainder of that pension. He called on the committee to advance this bill as soon as possible.

The bill passed its first reading 12-0 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.

Amendment to the Mail Bill

Communications Minister Kahlon (Likud) explained the amendment would expand the services offered by the postal bank in its 700 branches nationally. He said that expanding the services they offer will utilize more of the potential of the postal bank and its thousands of workers. He said among the new services are financial consultations and insurance sales.

The bill passed its first reading 12-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment to the Welfare Services Bill

Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Chairman Katz (Likud) explained the amendment would change the make-up of the appeals committee for citizens who are seeking social worker services from their local municipality and were denied.

The bill passed its second reading 10-0.

The bill passed its third reading 12-0.

MK Solodkin (Kadima) thanked the Knesset for approving her bill. She thanked Kahlon and Katz, who helped her advance this bill that will help hundreds of citizens a year across the country.

Amendment to the Reserve Soldiers and their Families Pension Payment

Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Chairman Katz explained this would be the 100th bill his committee has passed this term, and all of them have brought social justice to Israel. He said there are many needy people in the country, and they need his committee to pass these laws. He said this particular bill would grant orphans who lost their parent or parents in the army or in a terrorist attack before 1999 a one-time payment of NIS 100,000. He said 240 orphans will be eligible for this payment. He said the NIS 100,000 won’t bring their parent back but will give them justice.

The bill passed its second reading 12-0.

The bill passed its third reading 13-0.

Amendment to the Insurance Contracts Bill

Funds Committee Chairman Gafni explained the amendment would allow a customer who drops his insurance policy to not pay for the mandatory 15 days he is covered by the previous insurance company before he chooses a different one. He said insurance companies shouldn’t charge a fine and ask the customer to pay when he has decided to terminate his service.

The bill passed its second reading 10-0.

The bill passed its third reading 9-0.

Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill

Finance Committee Chairman Shama (Likud) explained the amendment would require private companies that give out company cars without leasing companies to have a safety inspector that deals with traffic accidents and violations. He said that the safety inspector will be liable for certain offenses and will be sanctioned for certain violations. He said that the company will be required to give 24 hour service to their drivers. He said that certain defense establishment vehicles will be exempt from some of the regulations. He said MK Wilf’s objections were far reaching and all but one of them should be defeated. MK Shnaan (Independence) said he will vote against the bill because it doesn’t exclude MKs from placing a sticker that allows drivers to call and complain about their driving.

MK Wilf (Independence) explained her objection would prohibit answering machine menus when the safety inspector is not available. She said that she would remove her other objections to the bill.

The bill’s paragraphs passed its second reading 6-3, 7-1 and 7-1.

Wilf’s objection was passed 8-0.

The bill passed its third reading 6-1.

MK Bielski (Kadima) thanked the Knesset for approving his bill.

Amendment to the Municipalities Ordinance Bill

MK Bielski stated this bill would make his late mother proud and will make proud the residents of Ra’anna who he served as mayor for 17 years. He explained the amendment would change the way the central government distributes money to the strong municipalities and ease their regulations. He thanked Prime Minister Netanyahu for personally getting involved and for his position of allowing great municipalities to have independence.

The bill passed its first reading 7-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

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This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s March 12, 2012, session.

Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/01487012.doc

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