The Knesset’s Wednesday session lasted about five hours. Nine bills were discussed. Four bills were advanced after passing their preliminary readings, three bills were turned into motions, and two bills were withdrawn before the vote to avoid defeat. The highlight bill of the day for Jerusalem readers will be the new appeals committee for light rail fines. Other interesting bills were discussed during the jam-packed day.

Non-Bills Summary

  • Interior Minister Yishai (Shas), Communications Minister Kahlon (Likud), Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) and Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.
  • House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced his committee’s suggestion of MK Shemtov (Y.B.) as Deputy Speaker to fill the spot of MK Levi-Abekasis, who resigned earlier in the day. It was approved 28-0.
  • Six motions were discussed. Four motions were sent for further discussion in committee by the votes 11-0, 8-0, 5-0 and 7-0. One motion was defeated 6-48, and one motion was not voted on.

Bills Summary

Amendments to the Illegal Residence Bill

Speaker Rivlin asked House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) how his committee can allow this bill to get a shortcut that saves it 45 days if the government decided to withdraw their support for the bill. Levin responded that his committee and Akunis didn’t know the government changed their mind and that he should take the issue up with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister Mofaz.

MK Akunis (Likud) slammed Mofaz and Kadima for trying to torpedo his bill. He quoted former Prime Minister Begin in his opening Knesset address in June 1977 when he invited all Vietnamese refugees to Israel. He said that 70,000 illegal immigrants are not refugees. He said that these illegals have flooded Tel Aviv, Eilat, Arad, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Netanya and Haifa. He said that he is for human rights but asked where the rights of the citizens of southern Tel Aviv are. He stressed that the Knesset was elected by them and not by the illegals. He said true social justice is taking care of our poor, not illegals. He said that these illegals live in the weakest communities and take away the communities’ jobs. He explained his amendment would toughen the restrictions that prohibit assisting the illegals by toughening punishment for those who house, employ or transport them within Israel’s borders. He said that he wishes that the courts never need to try someone but expressed the importance of it none the less. He noted the illegal housing of Bedouins in the Negev that isn’t being demolished when the Ulpana is.  He praised the government for building the fence by investing two billion shekels and assured Israelis that the 170 Kilometer fence will be completed by this fall. He praised the soldiers who do their job protecting us. He said that these illegals must be returned healthy and whole to their countries after the fence is completed. He noted his meeting with the Eritrean ambassador who assured him that every illegal can be sent back to his home without any harm coming to them.  Akunis withdrew the bill to avoid defeat.

Motion/Amendment to the Penal Code

MK Zeev (Shas) explained his amendment would prohibit disrobing or being naked in all public places with the exception of beaches with a punishment of one year of jail time. He slammed the actor Tonic Spencer for creating the naked culture in Israel. He said that this is not Sdom and Gemorah and being naked in public is simply not acceptable. He made it clear that he is not talking about partial nudity but rather full nudity. He said public pornography is not acceptable. He spent ten minutes stressing this point. He concluded by asking why many places in the United States have stronger laws on these matters than Israel.

Justice Minister Neeman said the new crime of being naked in public and the one year jail time is excessive and the government expresses their opposition to the bill. He noted that current law prohibits nudity in public in certain cases. He added that the bill isn’t written in proper legal language and is too broad. He said he would allow the matter to be discussed in committee as a motion and Zeev agreed to do so.

MK Khenin (Hadash) opposed the motion on the grounds that nudity is a democratic right of artistic expression and a Knesset discussion is problematic.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) opposed the motion on the grounds that a Knesset discussion on the topic of outlawing nudity has no place in a democratic system.

MK Zeev asked that the motion be sent to the Women’s Rights Committee.

The motion passed 12-7 and was sent to the Women’s Rights Committee.

Amendment to the National Health Insurance Bill

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained that the amendment will force the kupot cholim to send the ‘17 transfer form’ directly to hospitals or other medical providers instead of expecting the patient to deal with the paper work. He noted that his bill was defeated a year ago but he decided to try again. He read out a Bar Ilan University professor’s problems with the 17 transfer form. He told a personal story of how a problematic 17 transfer lead to a friend getting diagnosed with cancer a month later than he should have.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) expressed government support for the bill. He said that this situation should be resolved by January 1, 2013, and if it is not then this bill can be advanced further.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 29-0 and was sent to the Health Committee.

Establishing a Database Regarding the Product Prices in Chain Stores Bill

MK Shama (Likud) explained his original bill would create a national digital database that lists the prices of food, pharmacy and gasoline in chain stores. He said this free market bill will increase competition and lower prices. He said the ability to find the cheapest price on any product will help the weakest sectors in Israeli society.

Industry and Trade Minister Simhon (Independence) expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary 16-0 and was sent to the House Committee to determine which committee will prepare the bill for its first reading.

Two Amendments to the Railways Ordinance Bill

MK Rotem (Y.B.) explained his amendment would reduce the fine for driving without a local train ticket and create an appeals committee. He said Jerusalem light rail passengers are dealing with problematic issues.

MK Maklev (U.T.J.) slammed Citipass for excessively slapping fines on people. He said the absence of an appeals system is not democratic, especially since it is a private company and not the police or a local city official.

Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) expressed government support for both bills.

The first bill passed its preliminary reading 26-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

The second bill passed its preliminary reading 27-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Motion/Amendment to the Local Authorities Bill

MK Cabel (Labor) explained the amendment would create sheltered apartments for people who are thrown out of their homes for not paying their mortgages. He noted the loophole in Israeli law that protects the homeless but not someone who lost their home because of not being able to make payments. He stressed that a former apartment owner is not eligible to receive help from the Labor and Welfare Ministry.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) expressed government opposition to the bill due to financial restraints but asked Cabel to turn the bill into a motion so that they can have an intensive discussion in committee to elaborate on the sensitive issue. Cabel agreed.

The motion passed 27-0 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.

Motion/Amendment to the Students’ Rights Bill

MK Barakeh (Hadash) explained his amendment would prohibit placing a conditional fee as part of an entry process to learning at a state school. He said that public school should be free and he cannot understand how the government can oppose his bill.

Deputy Education Minister Moses (U.T.J.) expressed government opposition to the bill because its provisions already exist in Israeli law. He noted the areas in Israeli law that deal with the five aspects of the bill. He stressed that no student can be turned away because of his parents’ inability to pay tuition. He noted the book borrowing program and the planned digital books program. MK Matalon (Y.B.) said this should be discussed in committee because the truth is very different than the law. MK Cabel also pressured Moses to allow a motion. Moses asked Barakeh to turn the bill into a motion to enable a committee discussion.

Barakeh responded that his bill should be passed to protect the children. He agreed to turn the bill into a motion.

The motion passed 26-0 and was sent to the Education Committee.

Amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance Bill

MK Gal-On (Meretz) explained her amendment would prohibit tax deductions for people who make more than NIS 61,000 a month. She went on to slam those who make large salaries and save money twice through tax deductions. She blasted the capitalistic government and their anti-socialist policies that protect big companies and their managers. She said that the government should not be afraid of the social justice protests and should listen to their solutions. She decided to withdraw the bill until a later date to prevent defeat.

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This was the Knesset Jeremy English translation protocol of the Knesset’s June 13, 2012, session.

Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/02883212.doc

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