The Knesset’s Tuesday session lasted a little less than eight hours. 25 bills were discussed. 16 bills became law after passing their third readings, and nine bills were discussed in their first reading. This was the last meeting of the winter session. The summer session will open on April 30, 2012. The opposition was not very present and allowed the coalition to pass many bills that various opposition parties were against. Although the Knesset embarked on a 39-day spring break after this session, there would be two special sessions called during the recess.


Non-Bills Summary

  • Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) and Deputy Health      Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) answered urgent queries to start the session.
  • House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced the      rotation of MKs in a joint subcommittee. He added that MK Itzik (Kadima) will      replace MK Tibi (R.T.) in the Finance Committee. The changes were approved      29-4. He also announced a long list of disputed bills and which committees      will be discussing them.
  • Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence)      announced the government is withdrawing a bill that it placed on the      Knesset’s table for discussion.
  • MK Shama announced the Interior Committee’s request      to correct a technical issue in a bill. It was approved 11-0.


Bills Summary

Ethiopian Jewry Heritage Center Bill

Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee Chairman Danon (Likud) explained the original bill would create an Ethiopian Jewry Heritage Center and would focus on archiving and educational programing. He said the center would cost between five and seven million shekels annually and the funding would begin in January 2013. He thanked his co-sponsors.

MK Orlev (J.H.) said he was proud to be one of the many co-sponsors of the bill. He stated that the 5-7 million shekels is nothing and the government should have funded it more. He praised the Ethiopian heritage and expressed his support for the Ethiopian community. He called this a national day of celebration for Ethiopian Jews.

MK Molla (Kadima) expressed his excitement for what he called his most important bill. He said that education is needed to prove to all the doubters that Ethiopian Jews are indeed Jewish. He went on to thank a long list of people who have helped him advance this bill over the course of the last two terms.

The bill passed its second reading 10-0.

The bill passed its third reading 9-0.

Amendment to the Telecommunications and Broadcasting Bill

Finance Committee Chairman Shama (Likud) explained the amendment would increase competition among the cell phone companies by prohibiting cancellation fees and fines for a cell phone customer who changes service providers. He regretted that this bill will not apply to contracts signed before November 1, 2011. He added that the bill will prohibit false advertisement of cell phone companies such as deals that say the service is 0 NIS when the device costs them thousands of shekels and the customer is unaware. He said this bill will ensure that cell phone devices and cell phone service will be completely separated by January 1, 2013.

The bill passed its second reading 10-0.

The bill passed its third reading 11-0.

Amendment to the Parties Bill

House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) explained the amendment would require a person who is not a member of an existing party and announces his intention to run for the Knesset to register in the official Party Registry before he raises more than NIS 80,000. He said that in the interest of transparency all parties should follow the same rules to prevent unknown private interests from buying a political party by funding it under the radar and. He said that each new party would have to follow every campaign and election rule from the moment they register their party. He thanked MK Khenin for helping him update the bill considerably from the original version with helpful comments.

MK Khenin (Hadash) agreed that transparency is important and needed in the election process. He announced that his objection to this bill is because it is a personal bill directed at Yair Lapid and because it changes the rules of the game in the middle by having several retroactive clauses. He confessed he would have lifted all of his objections if this bill would take affect after the next elections and not before them. He added that this bill might prevent the participation of certain elements within the political process or reduce voter turnout and that is something he opposes.

MK Schneller (Kadima) expressed his support for the purpose of the bill he co-sponsored. He said that equality among the parties is necessary to increase participation in elections. He said that transparency is needed for the public to have trust. He said if the public knew which private interests were running which politicians it might not necessarily change their minds. He confessed that he will not vote for the bill because his party has decided to oppose it.

MK Zahalka (Balad) said hard cases make bad laws. He noted that there have been 18 Knesset elections without this law and this bill is just an obstacle to place in the way of Yair Lapid.

Chairman Levin stressed that this bill does not apply to someone who has not raised money for an election campaign. He stated the problem is more with unknown private interests and the bill does not target an individual’s own finances.

The bill’s paragraphs passed their second readings 33-9-2, 32-12-1 and 33-12-1.

The objections were defeated 9-35-1 and 10-35-1.

The bill passed its third reading 32-13-1.

Amendment to the Higher Education Bill

MK Pinyan (Likud) explained the amendment would require a fee for submitting requests to the Higher Education Council.

The bill passed its second reading 26-8.

The bill passed its third reading 24-6.

Temporary Amendment to the Value Added Tax Bill

Funds Committee Chairman Gafni (U.T.J.) explained the temporary amendment would exempt businesses with a turnover of less than NIS 1,950,000 and six or fewer employees from paying VAT until their product is sold. He said the current system of requiring a small business to pay VAT on a product that might not sell is unacceptable. He said this bill will only take effect in 2017.

Finance Committee Chairman Shama stressed that this temporary amendment must become a permanent amendment and must start in 2013.

Chairman Gafni agreed with Shama and expressed hope that the Finance Minister agrees. He said this will be one of the most important bills that his committee has passed.

The bill passed its second reading 14-0.

The bill passed its third reading 15-0.

Amendment to the Civil Service Bill

Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Chairman Katz (Likud) explained the amendment would update the pensions of policemen and prison servicemen to match the military and the other areas of the defense establishment. He added there would be various retroactive adjustments from 2008 that will be paid by 2018. He said he was proud of this and each one of his committee’s 105 bills that passed their third reading.

The bill passed its second reading 13-0.

The bill passed its third reading 12-0.

Amendment to the Victims of Nazi Persecution Bill

Funds Committee Chairman Gafni explained the amendment would update the terminology in the bill to reflect politically correct terms in order to avoid insulting victims of Nazi persecution with outdated 1950’s terminology.

The bill passed its second reading 8-0.

The bill passed its third reading 5-0.

Amendment to the Social Security Bill

Funds Committee Chairman Gafni explained the amendment would grant the same elderly pensions benefits to widows born before 1931 as those born after 1931. He said the 6,200 women who previously were prohibited from receiving the same benefits will now be able to, and 87 of them will receive additional benefits. He said that he added a chapter at the last minute that will help increase funding for babies born prematurely. He expressed pride in his committee’s 110 bills that were turned into law.

The bill passed its second reading 9-0.

The bill passed its third reading 8-0.

Amendment to the Labor Courts Bill

MK Herzog (Labor) explained the amendment would change the methodology of appointing Labor Court officials to include affirmative action and new qualifications. He added that the bill would also change the way the Labor Court functions and operates by presenting a big upgrade from the current rules and regulations.

MK Maklev (U.T.J.) said this is a monster bill and it has many issues, including the exemption of disabled workers from being able to use the Labor Court. He said that he will propose a bill that fixes the disabled workers issues.

MK Michaeli (Shas) added his concerns for the disabled workers community.

The bill passed its second reading 6-0.

The bill passed its third reading 5-0.

Temporary Amendment Restricting the Use and Registration of Used Car Parts and Actions Bill

Finance Committee Chairman Shama explained the act of stealing a car and bringing it to the Palestinian Authority to sell it for parts will result in a three year prison sentence. He announced the temporary amendment would become a permanent one if passed.

The bill passed its second reading 3-0.

The bill passed its third reading 3-0.

Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill

Finance Committee Chairman Shama explained the amendment would limit drivers under the age of 24 in a wide range of areas and prevent their license renewal if they cause serious accidents. He added that the age of a driver’s permit will be lowered to 16 years and 9 months.

The bill passed its second reading 3-0.

The bill passed its third reading 3-0.


Distribution of Transmissions via Digital Broadcast Stations Bill

Finance Committee Chairman Shama explained the bill would widen the package of the DTT program from the 5 most basic channels to 18 channels. He said the DTT program of buying a one-time television antenna device without the need for monthly subscription charges has been a success and should grow with the result of this bill. He said five of the channels will be in High Definition and stressed that the price of the DTT device will not be raised as a result of this bill. He revealed that so far 350,000 DTT devices have been sold nationally.

Communications Minister Kahlon (Likud) said there is a difference of opinion in terms of which channels will be included in the DTT upgrade.

Chairman Shama stated the bill would cost over 20 million shekels annually and would take effect gradually until 2014. He called on the Knesset to oppose all of the Finance Minister’s objections to the bill but to support Kahlon’s objection.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) announced that he was withdrawing his ministry’s various objections.

The bills paragraphs passed their second readings 11-0, 14-0 and 15-0.

Kahlon’s objection was accepted 14-0.

The bill passed its third reading 16-0.

Communications Minister Kahlon said that 2.5 million people use either cable or satellite. He said that by increasing the DTT to 18 channels the competition on the cable and satellite providers will increase, leading to a reduction in prices. He thanked a long list of people who helped make this new law a reality.

Firefighting and Rescue National Authority Bill

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) explained that the original bill would finalize the government reform of the firefighting services and transfer the authority from the Interior Ministry to the Homeland Security Ministry. He said the new rules and regulations will present an upgrade for Israel’s firefighting services to match the country’s 21st century needs without hurting the firefighters’ pay checks.

MK Herzog praised the bill that he said will reduce bureaucracy while upgrading the services the firefighters provide. He expressed his disappointment with the workers’ rights to strike and other labor rights that are excluded from this bill. He stated his party will ensure these issues are resolved in committee.

MK Yachimovich (Labor) called the Carmel fire one of the most dramatic moments in Israel’s history that uncovered the weaknesses of the state’s firefighting services. She accused the government of causing those weaknesses by privatizing some of the firefighting services, resulting in the disaster. She expressed satisfaction that the government has agreed to turn back to a Firefighting Authority but warned that labor rights must be protected. She said the current version of the bill that hurts the firefighters’ union is unacceptable. She explained that her party will abstain from the vote on this bill because of the pluses and minuses of the bill. She stated the Labor Party will vote for the final version of the bill if these issues are resolved. She stressed that Aharonovitch could not convince her otherwise.

MK Braverman (Labor) praised Aharonovitch for his attempt to finalize the reform. He recalled Aharonovitch’s positive term as the Police Chief of the south while he was serving as President of Ben Gurion’s University. He agreed that his colleague Yachimovich had good points. He expressed confidence this bill will address the concerns of both Aharonovitch and Yachimovich.

MK Azoulay (Shas) said that it is unfortunate that the only reason this reform was advanced was the Carmel fire and slammed the Finance Minister for his role in holding up the bill this long. He expressed support for the bill in its entirety, although he said he is leaving room for additional changes.

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) stated that when he was Interior Minister in Olmert’s administration he finalized the draft of the reform bill that is being offered today. He defended the bill, stressing that a firefighter’s job is too important to allow them to strike, and disbanding the unions in order to create a single firefighting union will save the country millions of shekels. He expressed regret that Olmert’s administration fell before he had a chance to advance this bill.

MK Khenin said that the Carmel fire taught us that the firefighting force in Israel is underfunded and this bill has many benefits in that regard. He said the bill is missing the necessary functions to protect the labor rights of the firefighting force. He said that it is undemocratic to take away their right to strike.

MK Eichler (U.T.J.) said that the Carmel fire was a disaster, but that day’s funeral of the Toulouse victims is another fire that should be recognized. He eulogized Rabbi Sheinberg, who passed away at the age of 102.

MK Zeev (Shas) slammed the MKs for connecting the Carmel fire and the firefighting reform. He stressed that these two issues are separate and this reform will not save a bus of prison service people in the future. He slammed the State Comptroller for blaming people for the Carmel fire for political reasons. He noted that he has been fighting for this reform since 2002 and he is proud to see this bill finally being advanced. He asked why the firefighters are allowed to use 16 year olds to put out fires when the government decides it is raising the age of marriage to 18.

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch said that he worked on this bill for a long time and asked that the Knesset approve it. He said that the State Comptroller will answer the Carmel fire questions. He said that the labor rights of the firefighters will not be harmed and that the union is supporting this bill. He said there will be changes made in committee and those opposing the bill will be doing the firefighting union a disservice.

The bill passed its first reading 25-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee. Two Labor MKs were present but did not vote.

Amendment to the Treatment of Mental Patients Bill

Justice Minister Neeman explained the amendment would attempt to prevent mental patients who commit murder from being released after they make a full mental recovery by creating a committee that will discuss each case before making a decision on releasing the patient. He said the committee will also discuss the terms of their imprisonment and their vacation time.

MK Eichler said the problem with incitement is that every community has mentally unstable people who take action as a result of the incitement. He called for treating those who cause incitement, not just those who answer the call.

MK Sheetrit supported the bill and recalled his struggle with this issue while he was Justice Minister. He said the current situation of mentally unstable people who get well and are released after two or three years in an asylum without doing any time in prison is unacceptable. He told the judges to stop having mercy on murderers in general and to stop with these ridiculous murder sentences of five years.

MK Zeev slammed the courts’ willingness to accept most murderers claims that they were insane while committing the murder. He blasted the lawyers for preparing the defendants for their insanity pleas. He said that a punishment of 15 years in prison or an asylum will prevent murder because jail or asylum sentences of two to three years is not preventing murder cases and almost encourages them.

The bill passed its first reading 10-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.

Amendment to the Companies Bill

Justice Minister Neeman explained the amendment would require the appointment of an expert to examine the debt settlement of company bonds in government companies. He said this measure will help the financial stability of these government companies and will allow the control of the bonds to move from shareholder to shareholder a lot more easily. He explained that the expert will be heavily regulated in terms of what is examined and what is disclosed.

MK Ben Ari (N.U.) decided to talk about the government lottery company and the wasteful spending of their marketing department. He slammed their policy of targeting the lower income brackets. He called on neutering them and preventing them from prying on innocent blue collar workers. He revealed that he has a bill that will prohibit such marketing.

MK Sheetrit slammed the Knesset for suddenly adding new bills to the day’s agenda. He said it is unfair to add new bills when most of the MKs have gone home. Deputy Speaker Levi Abukasis (Y.B.) supported the Knesset’s decision.

MK Eichler noted that in the United States government companies must give 25% to charitable organizations, while in Israel there is no such obligation. He called on the Israeli people to give charity to the poor so they can celebrate the Passover holiday.

MK Sheetrit expressed support for the bill but stressed that it will not go far enough. He said that the haircuts the investors enjoy will not be affected by the deal. He decided that in the end he will oppose the bill. He slammed the connections between investors and primary owners.

MK Zeev disagreed with Sheetrit’s assertion that this bill helps the tycoons. He stressed there is a difference between business investors and business owners and they should be treated differently. Zeev and Sheetrit got into a biblical argument on what the commentator Rashi said on a verse that deals with rich people.

The bill passed its first reading 4-1 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Amendment to the Companies Bill

Justice Minister Neeman explained the amendment would change the terms of office and employment in public companies, as well as various updates with their bonds and shareholding regulations. He said it is important to regulate how people are elected to the directorate and how the directorate functions, as well as the responsibilities and authority of the C.E.O.

MK Sheetrit said this is another complicated issue that can be resolved a lot more easily with simple ceilings on government company salaries and regulations on dividends. He slammed the Kupot Gemel managers who have not raised any money for the public in six years and have made millions for themselves from public funds.

MK Yachimovich called the bill ridiculous and without any teeth. She wondered what took Neeman two years of discussions to bring this ridiculous bill in place of her far-reaching bill. She slammed Rami Levy for harming his workers’ rights and called him a dictator. She announced a long list of C.E.O.s who she claimed harm worker’s rights. She slammed Supersol for firing 600 workers in a second wave of layoffs while the five managers are raking in millions of shekels a year. She said that she will bring her bill back after the recess since Neeman’s is a joke.

MK Sheetrit once again complained that the government was adding additional bills to the agenda without the consent of the opposition. Deputy Speaker Akunis (Likud) told Sheetrit that it isn’t his problem only a handful of opposition MKs decided to stay in the Knesset.

MK Khenin said this is a worrisome bill since it doesn’t meet the needs of the people and doesn’t bring social justice. He slammed the bill that he said has a twisted capitalistic feel. He said the idea that bonuses help encourage the worker to do a better job is disconnected from reality.

MK Zeev said that the opposition is going a little too far with their assertions and refuse to recognize the positive aspects of the bill. He noted conflict of interest issues exist everywhere including the Knesset who appoints their own State Comptroller. He told the opposition that they should support these changes and add certain things in the committee or the next amendment. He agreed that there is a lot of corruption but stressed this is a step forward.

The bill passed its first reading 12-3 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Amendment to the Consumer Protection Bill

Finance Committee Chairman Shama explained the amendment would prevent the expiration date on food stamps within five years. He added that the amendment would also prevent different amounts on the food stamps based on the different shopping outlets.

The bill passed its first reading 6-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Consolidation of Telephone Emergency Centers Bill

MK Maklev (U.T.J.) explained the original bill would consolidate the telephone emergency centers of the police, ambulances and firefighters into a single telephone emergency center. He said the exact number will be discussed in committee and the American 911 and European 112 are options on the table.

MK Shama called on the government to use both 911 and 112, and send the caller to the same emergency center. He stressed the current numbers of 100, 101 and 102 are still being used.

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

Amendment to the Planning and Building Bill

House Committee Chairman Levin explained the amendment would allow the transfer of surplus taxes of infrastructure programs to a dedicated fund for education improvement. He said this will encourage the local municipalities to streamline their programs by promising them the change for their educational programs. He noted that the programs will not spend more than 75 shekels on each student which is meant to encourage the local municipalities to include all children in these programs. He thanked the Kiryat Uno Mayor for bringing this idea to his attention.

MK Zeev said this bill limits the municipality to a 10% ceiling and excludes funding anything that isn’t education. He blasted the bill and said the municipalities aren’t doing their job if they have extra change. He said that this is an illogical bill, but he will support it.

MK Ben Ari congratulated the Likud government on their three year anniversary. He slammed the government for opposing MK Yaakov Katz’s natural growth bill that would have allowed building in his settlement of Karnei Shomron. He said that Minister Begin wasn’t telling the truth when he said that he is attending the red ribbon event at the newest Karnei Shomron building site. He said there are around 2,000 families that total 7,200-7,300 residents in his settlement. He said that there are 110-120 couples who get married every year in Karnei Shomron and there haven’t been any new programs for ten years in the settlement aside from the 42 units that were approved this year. He slammed the Likud for freezing the settlements in Judea and Samaria. He accused the Likud of planning on destroying Judea and Samaria just like they destroyed Yamit and Gush Katif.

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

Amendment to the Mines Ordinance Bill

MK Ariel (N.U.) explained the amendment would prohibit receiving or purchasing materials that were dug from a quarry without a license. He revealed that people who watch the Knesset Channel and send him ideas for laws have been rewarded with many of the ideas becoming law and this is another one. He announced the punishment would be a maximum jail sentence of six months and a NIS 75,000 fine, which would be doubled if it is a company and not an individual. He said that those who break this law will meet an increased presence of relevant government officials in the known areas. He concluded by wishing a Happy Passover to the MKs, Knesset workers and all of the Jewish people in Israel.

MK Ben Ari slammed those who illegally removed Israeli mountains, mostly in Judea and Samaria. He asked Ariel to add to the bill the prevention of exporting quarry materials by land and by sea.

MK Levin said this is an important bill and he supports it 100%. He said it is an economic and environmental bill. He slammed the government for the selected enforcement of laws in Judea and Samaria. He expressed hope they will enforce this law in Judea and Samaria. He praised those who decide to propose bills to MKs and agreed with Ariel that there should be more citizens who do so.

MK Zeev slammed the Bedouins for stealing Israel’s precious resources, such as sand, and selling it to our enemies. He slammed the government for not doing more in Judea and Samaria’s Area C. He praised the bill and called on Israel to do more to enforce it.

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

Amendment to the Broadcasting Bill

Finance Committee Chairman Shama mocked the MK who told him that he would run down the Castel naked if this bill ever got passed. He explained this bill would complete the reform in the public broadcasting sector and looks drastically different from the first version of the bill. He took pride in the checks and balances that take the politics out of public broadcasting. He said that all promises were kept and this will bill will provide Israelis with a real service that will make them proud to pay the television tax. He said that there will be hundreds of layoffs and there will be many buildings sold. He added that former MK Oron would be proud of this bill.

MK Eichler said that 3% of the population has 97% of the airtime and the point of the reform was to put an end to that. He said if Reka got nine million shekels then Moreshet deserves three million shekels. He added that the requirement of university for employees should be removed. He said there are a lot of issues with the 40 paragraphs of the bill and some of them should be changed. He agreed to remove his four objections when Shama told him that most of his concerns were resolved in the fine print. Eichler concluded that public broadcasting should reflect all colors of Israeli society.

MK Khenin said that he is in a problematic situation as the lone opposition MK in the room and can’t present the objections from Meretz and the other opposition MKs because they chose to go home early. He went on to praise the public broadcasting ideals and slammed the reform that he said does not remove politics from public broadcasting. He said that it is dangerous to allow the Prime Minister to interfere with public broadcasting and the reform doesn’t touch that. He slammed the exclusion of Arabs from most aspects of the reform. He concluded that the exclusion of Israeli original programming in the reform is also troublesome.

The bill passed its second reading 10-1.

The bill passed its third reading 10-1.

Temporary Amendment to the Electricity Bill

Finance Committee Chairman Shama explained the amendment would subsidize electricity for the poor with a budget of 80 million shekels annually. He slammed the opposition MKs who complain about electricity prices all year to the coalition but are absent from supporting a bill that subsidizes electricity for the poorest Israelis. He announced that around 80,000-100,000 families will receive a 50% subsidy, which will take effect in January 2013.

The bill’s paragraphs passed their second reading 8-0, 8-1 and 9-0.

Finance Minister Steinitz’s sole objection was defeated 0-10 and 1-8.

The bill passed its third reading 11-0 and 10-0.

There were two sets of voting due to Deputy Speaker Akunis’s mistake.

Amendment to the Telecommunications and Broadcasting Bill

Finance Committee Chairman Shama explained the amendment would open up the information service license to other numbers besides 144 and to other companies. He called this a market driven bill that will lead to better service.

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

Amendment to the Consumer Protection Bill

Finance Committee Chairman Shama explained the amendment would allow a consumer to cancel a service ahead of time in return for a 5% penalty, NIS 100, a full cash refund or a coupon for using that service another time, depending on the circumstances of the deal.

The bill passed its second reading 9-0.

The bill passed its third reading 8-0.

Amendment to the Consumer Protection Bill

Finance Committee Chairman Shama explained the amendment would require companies that have ongoing monthly transactions to send a statement of yearly transactions in March to the consumer. He noted that this will prevent companies from charging consumers for services that are over a year old.

The bill passed its second reading 11-0.

The bill passed its third reading 11-0.

MK Maklev thanked the Knesset for approving his bill and called it an amazing consumer protection bill.

Speaker Rivlin announced that between May 14 and May 16 the election for the State Comptroller will take place. He noted that 10 MKs can submit the candidacy of a non-political figure for the election. He went on to thank all of his assistants and the various Knesset workers, employees, security detail and others for an amazing term. He wished everyone a Happy Passover and told the MKs he would see them on April 30 at 4 PM. He closed the winter session.

This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s March 21, 2012, session.

Official protocol in Hebrew: