The Knesset’s Wednesday session lasted about seven hours. Fourteen bills were discussed. One bill became law after passing its third reading, and two bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings. One bill was turned into a motion, two bills were not brought to a vote in order to avoid defeat and eight bills were defeated. The day was filled with election fever as the opposition proposed bills with little chance of advancing.

 

Non-Bills Summary

 

  • Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) and Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.
  • Speaker Rivlin greeted the visiting European Parliament members.
  • Five motions were discussed on the hot news issues of the week. Three were sent to committee by the votes of 10-2, 9-0 and 6-1. The other two motions were defeated 6-6 and 2-3.

 

Bills Summary

 

Amendment to the Defamation Bill

MK Eichler (U.T.J.) slammed Likud and Liberman for trying to call early elections and their attempts to raise the threshold. He explained his amendment would add belonging to a social group under the Defamation Bill.  Eichler pulled the bill before voting in order to avoid defeat.

Amendment to the Consumer Protection Bill

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) explained his amendment would prohibit conditional commitment transactions for a fixed period of time. He said that this bill targets gym memberships that severely harm consumer protection. He told the gyms that this bill would force them to give monthly rates as opposed to yearly rates and will increase competition.

Minister Nahari (Shas) expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 23-0 and was sent to the Education, Culture and Sport Committee.

Amendment to the Planning and Building Bill

MK Michaeli (Shas) explained his amendment would prohibit the demolition or the change of a structure of religious importance. He stressed the importance of prohibiting the rezoning of religious buildings such as synagogues to maintain their holiness. He talked about a synagogue in Tel Aviv that was built in 1920 and a person who recently bought it and knocked it down to build high-rise residential buildings. He asked how the Jewish state could allow Jewish structures to be demolished under Israeli law.

Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) expressed government support for what he called a very important bill that would match Israeli law with most western countries. He warned that those who vote against this bill would be voting against religious rights.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) opposed the bill and charged this is a bill that will give Shas the power to prevent the destruction of any building they decide is a religious building. He called this bill extortion and illogical. He suggested this bill would also apply to Judea and Samaria. He stated the current law must be upheld.

 

MK Michaeli said election fever has turned the most logical bills into political ammunition. He stressed that this bill won’t be applied to Judea and Samaria. He noted this bill will protect churches and mosques as well and he couldn’t understand how this is Shas extortion.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 49-13 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

Two Amendments to the Social Security Bill

MK Herzog (Labor) explained his amendment would give those sexually assaulted at work social security payment benefits equal to those injured at work. He said that sexual assault is equal to if not worse than physical injuries and women should receive the same benefits.

MK Gal-On (Meretz) explained her similar amendment would accomplish the same thing. She said that women don’t come forward about sexual assault because they don’t want to lose their job and this bill will encourage them to do so.

Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) said that those who are sexually assaulted at work should be protected and the law does protect them as it does all sexually assaulted women. He stated that those physically injured during their course of employment are entitled to different benefits and there is no reason to mix the two. He said that the government opposes the bill because this is something that already exists, and this bill is purely politically motivated.

MK Gal-On said that these bills are meant to increase the money given to sexually assaulted women in order to encourage them to report the incident to the proper authorities.

The first bill was defeated 21-31.

The second bill was defeated 19-31.

Two Amendments to the Value Added Tax Bill

MK Molla (Kadima) said there are many poor people in Israel, and it is the government’s responsibility to take care of them. He explained his amendment would place a zero rate tax on basic food products. He said he feels Israel needs to become a welfare state and that he isn’t embarrassed by that view. He stated that he isn’t a communist, but he isn’t a capitalist either.

MK Horowitz said that indirect taxes are bad and his party is against all of them, including VAT. He said indirect taxes are discriminatory against the poor and help the rich. He said that as a proud socialist he feels that tax exemptions on basic food items are the government’s responsibility, as is strong government supervision. He said the disparity between the high cost of living and the low salaries is unbearable. He slammed the capitalistic economic policy of the government.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) said that indirect taxes like the VAT are an equal tax on both the rich and the poor. He said that all items have a VAT, and the beginning of VAT exemptions will open the floodgates, crashing the VAT system. He warned that this bill would cost 6 billion shekels each year, and the government opposes the bills for this reason.

MK Molla said that he isn’t looking to exempt everything from VAT but insisted that many items should be exempt.

The first bill was defeated 17-32.

The second bill was defeated 17-32.

Amendment to the Real Estate Tax Bill

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) said there are 146,000 empty “ghost” apartments in Israel that are owned by foreigners who don’t live in them. He said that his bill will encourage them to sell these apartments. He explained his amendment would eliminate the exemption from capital gains tax for nonresidents. He said that by doing this the apartments will no longer be a sound financial investment and they will sell their assets. He said there are 20,000 empty apartments in Tel Aviv, 14,000 in Haifa, 10,000 in Jerusalem, 1,720 in Be’er Sheva, 1,423 in Petah Tikva, 1,114  in Holon, 1,122 in Ramat Gan, 1,070 in Ashkelon, 958 in Tiberias and 902 Rishon Le’Tzion. He noted that in England the government takes away foreigners’ homes in London and sells them off. He noted this bill will increase taxes on foreigners by 3 billion shekels annually, and that money will be invested domestically. He slammed the government for opposing a bill that would lower prices in the housing market.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen praised this bill as another financially smart Sheetrit bill from a previous Finance Minister. He said the government opposes the bill because it will cause Israel to violate certain signed international treaties and because it lacks exemptions for nonresidents who plan to immigrate to Israel in the future. He suggested turning the bill into a motion in order to discuss the idea more and to find loopholes that will provide a well-rounded solution.

MK Sheetrit thanked Cohen for supporting his bill and expressed understanding that Cohen is just the messenger. He insisted his bill is a quick solution that will lower the housing prices. He noted that the foreigners already have a VAT tax exemption and this real estate tax exemption is really just too much.

The bill was defeated 10-27.

MK Tirosh (Kadima) announced she voted twice by mistake (her place and MK Shai). Deputy Speaker Vaknin announced it was a mistake for the protocol.

Amendment to the Nazi Persecution Bill

MK Bielski (Kadima) explained his amendment would create a national authority to serve as a one stop shop for Holocaust survivors to ease the bureaucracy. He noted that 80 MKs co-sponsored his bill. He said that asking elderly Holocaust survivors to run from one government ministry office to another is unacceptable. He said that by opposing the bill the government is saying that they don’t care about fighting for Holocaust survivor rights.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen said that all 120 MKs stand in unity for the Holocaust survivors and dismissed Bielski’s statements. He pointed out that Prime Minister Netanyahu founded a special office in the Prime Minister Office for Holocaust survivors that is led by Deputy Minister Nass (Likud). He said that office serves the Holocaust survivors very well and accomplishes much of what is asked from this bill. He went on to list the government accomplishments from that office for his final ten minutes.

MK Bielski charged the bill is being dropped because of politics. He screamed at Cohen and the government for three minutes.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen said he was offended by Bielski’s words because he agrees with the ideas but rejects that the government is failing the survivors.

Minister Peled (Likud) got up and asked, as a Holocaust survivor, if the vote on the bill could be delayed. Bielski agreed.

Profiler Teacher in Education System Bill

MK Tirosh (Kadima) explained her original bill would regulate the rights of the ten to fifteen percent of students with learning disabilities. She said that currently the government is not involved and external tests determine which rights will be given to the students. She charged that certain people buy learning disability rights. She stated her bill would nationalize the learning disability tests and recommendations and prevent misuse of the system. She said that her system is not just about punishment and those who cannot afford to buy rights would get them under her system. She said the 4,000 schools can share resources, and this does not have to cost a lot of money.

Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) said that Tirosh touched on a sensitive subject and he agrees with her diagnosis of the problem but not her solution. He added that he personally agreed with the bill but the government requested two months to examine the 400 million shekel budget of the bill. He noted that the only reason the government is asking the Knesset to defeat the bill is because Tirosh chose not to wait the two months. He said that his ministry’s budget will be 5 to 6 billion shekels, and it takes time to reduce the number by 400 million. He went on to the topic of politics and slammed the opposition for trying to delay early elections. He said that Israel’s opposition will be the only opposition to vote against early elections.

MK Tirosh said that arrogance is a difficult thing. She slammed the government for deciding to call early elections and force the public to vote when they don’t want to.

Deputy Speaker Vaknin (Shas) said that the Knesset should conduct a secret vote on early elections. He said the results would be 2-118 with Netanyahu and Liberman as the only two who would vote for.

The bill was defeated 6-21.

Amendment to the Public Housing Tenant Rights Bill

MK Solodkin (Kadima) explained the amendment would increase the number of single parent immigrant families eligible for public housing by having criteria that would be easier to attain.

Housing Minister Atias (Shas) said that Solodkin’s bill is discriminatory against Israelis. He said that immigrants aren’t immigrants forever, and he is against raising the ten year ceiling. He said that all citizens on the public housing waiting list starting next week will get NIS 3,000 a month towards rent without giving up their position in line. He said that his measure is social justice, and Solodkin’s bill is not.

MK Solodkin slammed Atias, pointing out that 3,000 people waiting in line with his ministry will get NIS 3,000, but the 50,000 people waiting on the Immigrant Ministry list will not. She said that she is done with the bill and will tell the immigrants to “Supreme Court” the government in order to get the job done.

The bill was defeated 6-14.

Motion/Amendment to the Arrangements Bill

MK Swaid (Hadash) explained his amendment would change the calculations for property tax reductions for tuitions in the municipalities. He said the change would increase city tax reductions for families that house their university students at home. He stated this bill would assist poor families that send their children to university. He agreed to turn the bill into a motion to avoid defeat.

The motion passed 6-0 and was sent to the Appropriations Committee.

Amendment to the Law and Administration Ordinance Bill

MK Katzeleh (N.U.) said that early elections are a waste of money and pointed out the country sent the MKs to the Knesset for at least 4 years. He stated even though he doesn’t like this government, the people want it to last longer. He noted the agreement with Jewish Home and the National Religious Party that would have them running with National Union in the next elections. He expressed confidence that a joint list will lead to a double digit showing in elections and the party will have a lot of influence in the next government. He went on to discuss his nationalist bill that he said will be defeated by the nationalist parties for a third time this term. He said this bill put in place Israeli law in the cities, Regional Councils and Local Councils of Judea and Samaria. He listed his bill’s 40 co-sponsors from Likud, Yisrael Beitenu and other parties. He said that 350,000 Jews live in Judea and Samaria under military rule. He went on to slam Prime Minister Netanyahu’s position on a Palestinian state as well as the building freeze in Judea and Samaria. He read out the names of the Likud Mayors in Judea and Samaria and their cities’ populations and told them to call their Likud MK friends to convince them to vote for this bill that will end their status as residents with full taxation without equal representation.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government opposition to the bill because it did not reach the Ministerial Committee of Legislative Affairs.

MK Katzeleh said it was not even worth responding to Neeman.

The bill was defeated 4-14.

Amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance Bill

Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Chairman Haim Katz (Likud) explained the amendment would change the regulations on provident funds (Kupot Gemel). He spent about twelve minutes explaining the incredibly long and financially complex bill.

The bill passed its second reading 13-0.

The bill passed its third reading 13-0.

 

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This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s May 2, 2012, session.

Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/02072712.doc

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