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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

The Knesset had two sessions on Monday. The first session, meant solely for choosing the next State Comptroller in a secret ballot vote, lasted about three and a half hours. Later that evening the second session lasted about three hours. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s candidate Shapira was selected as the next State Comptroller. Netanyahu’s 94-MK coalition embarrassed him in the secret vote as Shapira failed to receive the required 61 votes in the first two rounds, forcing a third. Seven bills were discussed. Six bills were advanced after passing their first readings, and one bill became law after passing its third reading. The new law limits the number of visits a prisoner can receive from a lawyer if there is a threat to national security.

 

Non-Bills Summary

  • In the first round of State Comptroller voting 114 MKs participated, and 6 MKs were absent. Joseph Shapira received 58 votes,  Eliezer Rivlin 44 and Shlomo Kalderon 10. Two MKs gave in blank papers.
  • In the second round of voting 111 MKs participated, and nine were absent. Shapira received 59, Rivlin 45, and Kalderon 2, with three blank papers and two disqualified votes.
  • 111 MKs participated in the third and final round of voting between the top two candidates. Shapira won 68 and Rivlin 40, with one blank paper and two disqualified votes.
  • House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) announced that MK Bar-On (Kadima) will replace Minister Mofaz (Kadima) as the  Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman. He also announced his committee’s decisions on which disputed bills would be discussed in which committees. The decisions were approved 4-1.
  • Hadash, Ra’am-Ta’al and Balad’s joint no-confidence motion titled ‘The unity government increases the danger of war’ was defeated 11-26.
  • Labor’s no-confidence motion titled ‘The government’s intention to enact drastic and dangerous cuts in the 2013 budget,  especially in the social field’ was defeated 12-26.
  • Meretz’s no-confidence motion titled ‘The “stinking maneuver” of the unity between the Netanyahu government and Kadima’ was defeated 12-26.

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Prison Ordinance Bill

MK Pinyan (Likud) explained the amendment would allow the prison service to limit the number of lawyers that visit a prisoner in Israeli jails if there is a fear that the prisoner-lawyer meetings pose a risk to national security. He explained the previous 2011 amendment limited certain terrorist lawyers’ visits with prisoners but it did not prevent unknown terrorist lawyers from meeting with terrorists who handed over sensitive information to the wrong hands. Prisoners who have finished their appeal process and still receive dozens of lawyer visits a year raise concerns that these lawyer visits are being used as a loophole by the prisoners to engage in terrorist activity. Mafia lawyers also use this loophole to allow their bosses to run things from inside prison. He stressed that it is important to note that this amendment limits the number of lawyer visits but does not prohibit them, adding that a prisoner will be entitled to at least one visit every month. He asked the Knesset to defeat the opposition’s objections to the bill.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) said it is important to protect the basic right of every prisoner to meet with his lawyer as often as he wants for as long as he wants. He spoke against the bill and said that these basic rights should not be limited. He called on the Knesset to defeat the bill, but, if they choose to support the bill, to at least support his party’s objections to it.

MK Khenin (Hadash) started his speech by praising the deal between the security prisoners and the prison service that ended the prisoners’ hunger strike. He went on to express his solidarity with the security prisoners’ position against administrative detention and their living conditions. He praised the accomplishments of the strike by equating most of the Palestinian security prisoners’ rights to those of regular Israeli prisoners but expressed regret that there is still a long way to go. He slammed the current bill as problematic, dangerous and unconstitutional. He said this bill gives the prison authority too much responsibility at the price of lawyer and prisoner rights. He said that he was not convinced there is any terrorist or mafia activity being conducted during prisoner-lawyer meetings. He called this a collective punishment bill that will harm the lawyers’ abilities to do their jobs and the prisoners’ basic democratic rights. He called on the Knesset to defeat the bill or to at least support his objections if they choose to support the bill.

The bill’s paragraphs passed their second readings 14-4 and 16-4.

The objections were defeated 4-14, 4-15, 4-16 and 4-16.

The bill passed its third reading 16-4.

Changing the Social Economy Bill

Deputy Education Minister Moses (U.T.J.) explained the original bill would require the Education Minister to receive the Knesset’s Education Committee’s authorization on the exact payments required from parents for their children’s public schooling. He explained that with public schooling starting at age 3 instead of age 5, the extension of the book loaning program, longer hours for children under the age of 9 and the funding of informal education programs such as youth groups, the government will probably need to raise tuition. He stated this bill will designate 500 million shekels to be utilized to help pay part of the tuition for parents of low socioeconomic background.

MK Khenin stated that public school should be free for all and instead each year it becomes more expensive. He warned this bill will create a two-step educational system where parents will need to be embarrassed in order to receive a discount.  He added that the social justice movements last summer were fighting to lower tuition and not to increase it for some. He called the bill an embarrassment and a disgrace.

The bill passed its first reading 10-1 and was sent to the Education Committee.

Amendment to the Execution Bill

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) explained the amendment would allow accelerated repo proceedings for amounts under NIS 10,000. He said that the pilot plan was successful and this bill will widen the program to most cases under NIS 10,000.

MK Khenin expressed his opposition to the bill on the grounds that it harms poor people. He said that repo proceedings for under NIS 10,000 are almost always against poor people, and an accelerated route will harm them. He said that if the bill passes he will fight it in committee.

The bill passed its first reading 8-2 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Amendment to the Administrative Courts Bill

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch explained the amendment extends the authority of the administrative courts so that they will be able to hear cases on illegal immigrants as well.

MK Khenin spoke in favor of the Africans and said that the border should remain open and that Israel should allow them to work. He blamed the government for the latest wave of violence in the poor neighborhoods because it is the government that places the Africans in those areas, waiting for an explosion. He called on the Knesset to oppose this bill because it will harm the Africans’ rights.

The bill passed its first reading 8-2, with one MK abstaining and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Amendment to the Patents Bill

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch explained the amendment would regulate the patents authority to ensure the extension of protection. He said that a treaty signed by this administration between Israel and the United States requires this amendment to pass in order for the treaty to take effect. He confessed that he had no idea what he just read or what the bill does.

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

Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch explained the amendment would delay the new regulations on “sheirut” cab drivers to 2013 with an ability to extend for another three years until 2016 if the Finance Committee authorizes the request.

MK Khenin spoke in favor of sheirut cab services and called for having them operate on the Jewish Sabbath as well. He gave a five minute speech stressing the importance of public transportation on the Sabbath.

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

Amendment to the Clean Air Bill

Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch explained the amendment would clean up the bureaucracy and make it easier to receive a building permit for factories that cause pollution.

MK Khenin opposed the bill and slammed the government for making it easier for the polluting factories to open up shop.

The bill passed its first reading 8-2 and was sent to the Environment Committee.

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

Official protocol in Hebrew: http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/02306212.doc and http://www.knesset.gov.il/plenum/data/02297712.doc