The Knesset’s Wednesday session lasted about seven hours. Seven bills were discussed. Three bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, and four bills were defeated. The bills advanced deal with Druze court selection of committee appointees, erasing minors’ criminal records in certain cases and official prison visits by a Knesset committee chairman.

 

Non-Bills Summary

  • Speaker Rivlin opened the session discussing the difficult situation in which the new 26-MK opposition has been placed. He gave his opinion on various changes that the 94-MK coalition should consider in order to preserve Israeli democracy.
  • Deputy Education Minister Moses (U.T.J.), Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.), Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon  (Likud) and Interior Minister Yishai (Shas) answered urgent queries.
  • Speaker Rivlin gave a warm speech to the Moldovan government delegation.
  • House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced which subcommittees the incoming Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee  Chairman Bar-On (Kadima) will chair.
  • Ten motions were discussed on the top headlines of the week. Eight of them were sent to committee by the votes 13-0, 8-2, 11-0, 6-0, 10-0, 4-0, 6-0 and 5-0. Two motions were not voted on.

 

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Retirement Bill

MK Agbaria (Hadash) explained his amendment would lower the retirement age for construction workers. He said that these workers have a low quality of life and they can’t work over 35 years in a hard labor job. He said it is the government who should pay the early pension to the worker and not the employer, since these workers move from job to job. He recalled his own work as a construction worker and the difficulty of the job. He said this weak working sector should be protected and given additional benefits.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) explained there are 173,000 construction workers that make up 5.4% of the workforce. He stated there are many government programs that can help those who drop out of their profession and retire early, but the government does not see a reason to encourage all construction workers to work fewer years. He added that most of these workers are foreign workers and there is no reason for Israeli citizens to pay their pension.

MK Agbaria disagreed with Cohen’s numbers and estimates. He recalled his celebrations of May Day this year and how the capitalistic government people mocked him. He said that he should not have expected anything more of this anti-worker government.

The bill was defeated 11-42.

Amendment to the Druze Court

MK Shnaan (Independence) explained this amendment has the support of all Druze representatives in the Knesset: MK Amar (Y.B.), MK Naffaa (Balad), MK Whbee (Kadima) and Deputy Minister Kara (Likud). He said the amendment would add Knesset representatives to the Druze court appointments committee. He revealed the government has decided not to give an opinion on the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 36-3 and was sent to the House Committee.

Amendment to the Powers to Protect Public Safety Bill

MK Levi-Abekasis (Y.B.) explained her amendment would erase the criminal records of most minors after they complete their full army service. She stressed that serious criminals will not enjoy the benefits of this bill. She said combat soldiers should be allowed to get a gun license and work in security after their service.

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 39-0 and was sent to the Labor Committee.

Amendment to the Prison Ordinance Bill

MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) explained the amendment would allow the Interior and Environment Committee Chairman to make official visits to any and every jail in Israel.

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 37-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

Amendment to the Penal Code Bill

MK Herzog (Labor) explained the amendment would prohibit the exclusion of women in the public domain. He slammed the events in Bet Shemesh where women were persecuted, discriminated against and excluded. He said that the time has come to outlaw those who exclude women or prevent them from singing in front of men or walking next to men. He said that red lines need to be set.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government opposition to the bill. He said that a five year jail sentence for excluding women is excessive and the bill does not define excluding women clearly. He stated the way to deal with the problem is not in the penal code.

MK Herzog objected to Neeman’s statement that he wrote a bill that is full of technical loopholes and loose clauses. He quoted Minister Mofaz (Kadima), who said he would support this bill before he joined the government. He got into a screaming match with MK Zeev (Shas) and told him not to lecture him on religion.

The bill was defeated 15-26.

Three Kadima MKs (Abesadze, Tiviaev, and Yoel Hasson) voted against the coalition position and supported the bill.

Amendment to the State Education Bill

MK Sarsur (R.T.) explained his amendment would mandate Arab representation of at least 25% in all education committees. He noted that currently there are only two Arabs in all of the education committees. He said it is impossible to help the Arab public school system if the people advising the minister are not Arab.

Deputy Education Minister Moses expressed government opposition to the bill on the grounds that affirmative action for one group will discriminate against other groups and might cause the politicization of these committees.

The bill was defeated 12-26.

Marriage and Divorce Bill

MK Horowitz (Meretz) said his original bill would enable civil marriage in Israel. He slammed the Rabbis for deciding who can marry and who cannot. He confirmed this bill would also allow gay marriage. He noted that civil marriage is recognized if it is done outside of Israel, so this whole Jewish marriage thing is a farce. He quoted President Obama, who supports gay marriage.

Justice Minister Neeman said the government is against the bill because it wasn’t submitted to the Ministerial Committee of Legislative Affairs.

MK Gal-On (Meretz) said this important Meretz bill will one day get passed. She attacked the government and the Justice Minister. She slammed orthodox Rabbis and called them extreme. She called for separation of religion from state.

The bill was defeated 11-39.

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This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s May 16, 2012, session.

Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/02371412.doc#_Toc325009701

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