The Knesset’s Wednesday session lasted about eight and a half hours. 15 bills were discussed. Eight bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, two votes were postponed in order to avoid the bills’ defeat, and five bills were defeated. As usual the 40-MK discussion included fiery speeches without much substance from either side. This was the last day the Knesset would be discussing preliminary bills before the 39-day spring break, which led to a longer than usual legislative discussion. Speaker Rivlin decided that the Knesset would spend their last week of the winter session dealing only with bills in their first, second and third readings. Some MKs started hinting to their plans for the spring break, which started after they finished their session on Wednesday, March 21, and ends when they go back on Monday, April 30. Two of the bills advanced would regulate currently unregulated alcohol and establish a Bible Hall in Jerusalem.

 

Non-Bills Summary

  • Homefront Security Minister Vilnai (Independence), Housing and Construction Minister Atias (Shas) and Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.
  • House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced which disputed bills would be discussed in which committees.
  • Speaker Rivlin gave a warm speech greeting Georgia’s Speaker, who is visiting Israel.
  • The monthly Knesset discussion with the presence of the Prime Minister by request of 40 MKs’ signatures was conducted on the topic of “The Netanyahu government’s failure in the diplomatic, economic and social sectors”. 17 MKs gave speeches before Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response and Opposition Leader Livni’s rebuttal. Netanyahu’s response was accepted by the Knesset 36-30.
  • Five motions were discussed on a wide variety of topics. Four of them were sent to committee by the votes 5-0, 4-3, 4-0 and 3-0. One motion was not voted on.
  • Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) and Justice Minister Neeman answered queries at the end of the session.

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Law and Administration Ordinance Bill

MK Levin (Likud) explained the amendment would allow the Knesset to approve technical changes to laws without needing to pass through three readings.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 15-0 and was sent to the House Committee.

Amendment to the Violence Prevention Bill

MK Haim Katz (Likud) explained the amendment would increase the punishment for assaulting a member of the social services and revoke the assailant’s social service benefits. He went on to argue with Speaker Rivlin over the terms of the Knesset cafeteria’s employees.

Communications Minister Kahlon (Likud) expressed government support for the bill. He said that this will let social workers know the country has their back.

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

Amendment to the Soldiers and their Families Benefits Bill

MK Matalon (Y.B.) explained his amendment would include benefits to those who were not hurt in the line of duty, eliminating the condition that the occurrence of the injury must be during the first fourteen days of their vacation. He said that the army has a responsibility to its soldiers as long as they are enlisted even if they are on extended vacation.

Housing and Construction Minister Atias (Shas) expressed government support for the bill and said the budget impact is minimal.

MK Eldad (N.U.) expressed his objection to the bill. He said that soldiers on vacation shouldn’t receive the same benefits as soldiers who are injured or killed in the line of duty. He suggested having an insurance package for soldiers who die or are injured on vacation. He stressed soldiers in the line of duty deserve more.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 22-0 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.

Amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance Bill

MK Kirshenbaum (Y.B.) explained her amendment would exempt the tax on a one-time withdrawal of financial rewards deposited for a period of at least ten years in a provident fund (Kupat Gemel).

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

The bill passed its preliminary reading 26-0 and was sent to the House Committee to determine which committee will discuss the bill further.

Struggle on the Phenomenon of Counterfeit Alcohol Bill

MK Kirshenbaum said 30% of alcoholic products on the market are counterfeit products without oversight or government regulation. She said these counterfeit alcohol issues are hospitalizing children because they are dangerous and made in people’s basements.

Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) expressed government support for the bill. He tried to give his response without getting into it with MK Bar-On (Kadima) who was heckling him and the bill.

MK Yachimovich (Labor) objected to the bill and charged that this was a private interest bill. She said an alcohol supplier is behind this bill and a 14-year prison sentence for this bill is ludicrous.

MK Kirshenbaum asked if we should accept the products of those who wish to poison our children. She rejected claims that a private interest was behind her bill. She was heckled and mocked by the opposition MKs.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 25-9 and was sent to the House Committee to determine which committee will discuss the bill further.

International Treaties Bill

MK Eldad explained his original bill would require that all international treaties be sent to the Knesset for approval before being signed. He stated the checks and balances among the branches of government are required in such matters. He said that he is the only MK who reads international treaties before the government signs them and has over the years saved Israel from losing its status as a Jewish and democratic state. He said that the Knesset must be more involved in the process of discussing and approving international treaties. He slammed Foreign Minister Liberman (Y.B.) for opposing the bill and decided to pull his bill for the time being in order to enlist more government support.

Amendment to the Reduction of the Cooling-Off Period for Senior Defense Establishment Bill

MK Herzog (Labor) explained the amendment would repeal the three year cooling off period between serving at the highest levels of the defense establishment and entering political life and Knesset. He said that all army and police generals and heads of the Shabak and Mossad are included in this three year cooling off period. He said that this bill is meant to keep people like Gabi Ashkenazi out of the Knesset. He charged this bill is aimed at certain people and excludes others like a State Comptroller, Bank Governor or Director of the Prime Minister’s Office. He said that he would agree to a shorter cooling off period of a year or so. He slammed MK Regev, who served as the army spokeswoman and was a Lieutenant General and who was supporting the bill and heckling him.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Edelstein (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill. He said after serving your country for 20-30 years it is a good idea to spend a few years with your family before joining the political fray, which can be even more demanding. He said that a soldier should not spend his last days in the army deciding which party he wants to join, which can also affect Israel’s national security. He slammed the opposition for being irresponsible and proposing personal bills. He called for keeping security leaders separate from politics.

MK Herzog said Edelstein’s response was embarrassing. He asked why other groups only have a 100-day cooling off period but these people get three years. He said the playing field for everyone who wants to become a politician must be leveled.

The bill was defeated 13-32.

MK Regev (Likud) slammed Herzog for trying to create a banana republic and trying to convince generals to support the politicians they wish to join after they are released. She blasted Herzog for not passing one soldier- or veteran-friendly bill and then suddenly supporting them for personal reasons. She said his bill was not just.

Amendment to the Penal Code Bill

MK Shai (Kadima) said Israeli society is in trouble because the exclusion of women from society is increasing, and the Knesset must prevent it. He slammed separate health clinics, eulogy areas in cemeteries, sidewalks, private businesses, public events and singing. He said Israel is a free society, and no one can place limitations on women. He said that before 1997 these things didn’t exist. He said ultra-orthodox Jews in Bet Shemesh told him they are against the extremist elements in their midst. He explained the amendment would require a prison sentence of three years for the exclusion of women or for encouraging the occurrence.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that creating a new offense in the Penal Code won’t solve the exclusion of women issue. He said the solution should be elsewhere and not part of legislation. He said the attempt to make everything illegal will make the law even more difficult to enforce.

MK Shai responded in terms of the exclusion of women from Israeli society there is no room for mercy and should be dealt with swift justice. He charged the government has chosen not to fight for this issue.

The bill was defeated 19-27-1.

Amendment to the Food Bill

MK Whbee (Kadima) explained his amendment would change the welfare guarantee of payment system, so that a single parent can work for minimum wage and still be allowed to receive welfare payments. He said these women should be allowed to work for up to NIS 4,100 a month to help supplement the welfare they are entitled to. He said the current system of taking away welfare from single parents who make the decision to work is unacceptable.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that a single parent is allowed to work and receive wages for up to NIS 600 a month and still receive welfare payments. He said this bill will help only a handful of single mothers since widows and other groups are exempt under Whbee’s bill. He said the government is considering raising the “disregard” payment a person on welfare may earn, and the government should be given time to finish those considerations. He said NIS 100 million have been allocated to make a plan that will solve the situation.

MK Whbee asked why the government is spending NIS 100 million to seek a bureaucratic solution later when he is offering them a solution now.

Justice Minister Neeman responded that he is willing to turn the bill into a motion and discuss the issue in committee. Whbee rejected Neeman’s offer.

The bill was defeated 17-29.

Amendment to the Housing Loans Bill

MK Molla (Kadima) slammed the Immigration and Absorption Minister for running away instead of answering his bill. He said his amendment would create a committee to help new immigrants with their housing loans. He said new immigrants have no idea what the rules are in Israel, and their Hebrew is terrible. He said the country needs to find people who will make these life decisions easier for the new immigrants, so they understand what they are doing.

Housing and Construction Minister Atias said it is a great bill but will make the government liable for law suits if a new immigrant misunderstands the committee’s suggestions and gets into money trouble. He suggested changing the language of the bill so that it is a consumer protection issue. He offered Molla an opportunity to vote on the bill at a different time to give the government time to change its mind. Molla agreed.

Two Amendments to the Public Housing Bill

MK Bar-On (Kadima) explained his amendment would reform purchase rights in Israel. He stated it would establish a national authority for public housing. He said the social justice protests and the Israeli housing crisis are forcing the government to take a stand and improve the public housing system. He said that the authority was supposed to be implemented 13 years ago, and each government decides to push off the implementation longer and longer. He called on the government to deal with high rental prices and the resale of second and third hand apartments too.

MK Khenin (Hadash) said that Israel doesn’t build public housing and that leads to a situation where those who are eligible for public housing can’t receive it. He said the current system of private people fulfilling the responsibility of the government is not acceptable.

Housing and Construction Minister Atias said that over the last twenty years the public housing system has slowly been dying. He said that there used to be over 100,000 public housing units, but the Labor Party decision in 1999 to stop building them and to start selling the units to those who lived in them led to a drop to fewer than 70,000 units when he took the ministry’s lead job. He said that he was the first minister in decades to invest funding and put NIS 240 million into building more public housing. He said that he agrees with this bill, but the Finance Ministry doesn’t want to fund it, and therefore the government is against both bills.

MK Bar-On praised Atias’s integrity for supporting the bill even though he is the government’s messenger killing it. He said that Atias is looking for surgical solutions instead of looking at the biggest pictures. He called on Atias to build more floors in existing public apartment buildings.

The bills were defeated 21-38 and 22-37.

Bible Hall in Jerusalem Bill

MK Bar-On explained his original bill would create a Bible Hall in Jerusalem that would help Israel’s tourism, culture, education, religion and public relations. He quoted Prime Minister Netanyahu, who at one point called for a Bible Hall in Jerusalem and asked the government to support Netanyahu’s request.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Edelstein expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 21-0 with one MK abstaining and was sent to the Culture Committee.

Amendment to the Standard Contracts Bill

MK Hermesh (Kadima) explained his amendment would fix certain issues in the standard contracts bill so that negative money can be included in cases where it was not possible previously.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bill and stressed it wouldn’t change existing contracts.

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

Amendment to the Lending Textbooks Bill

MK Tirosh (Kadima) explained her amendment would require a program of loaning textbooks in schools so that each year the school children give the textbooks back for the following year’s kids to study with them. She went on to praise Sa’ar for his amazing work with the ultra-orthodox.

Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) expressed government support for the bill as long as 60% of the classes’ parents decide they are interested in participating in the program.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 14-0 and was sent to the Education Committee.

________________________________________________________________

This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s March 14, 2012, session.

Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/01548112.doc

Advertisements