The Wednesday Dec. 7th session lasted about eight hours. Thirteen bills were discussed. One bill was advanced after passing its preliminary reading, three were defeated, six were withdrawn and three were turned into motions in order to avoid defeat. The bill advanced will increase the financial compensation soldiers receive as part of their exit package. The three bills defeated would have given students under the poverty line free university, allowed business owners to go to university as a tax expense and raised the number of hours schools teach traffic safety.
* Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud), Labor and Welfare Minister Kahlon (Likud) and Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.) answered urgent queries at the beginning of the session.
* There were eight motions discussed on a wide variety of topics. Seven motions were sent to committee for further discussion by the votes 17-0, 11-0, 8-0, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 and 6-0. One motion was not voted on.
Amendment to the Civil Service Bill
MK Eichler (U.T.J.) slammed Israel for discriminating against people who don’t have a degree. He said that a degree is important for doctors and lawyers but has nothing to do with most occupations. He said that a person who has experience in a given field should not be overlooked for a person with no experience but has a degree in music. He charged that Israel discriminates against the ultra-orthodox. He explained his amendment would stop giving preference to government job applicants with a non-relevant academic degree and would put them at the same level as someone who doesn’t have a degree. He added that the amendment would also apply to political appointments. He slammed the government for not supporting his bill and said that his party will have to reconsider being a part of a government that discriminates against the ultra-orthodox. He agreed to turn the bill into a motion in order to avoid defeat.
The motion was passed 15-1.
Jerusalem Capital of Israel and the Jewish People Bills
MK Eldad (N.U.) said that Jerusalem has been the capital and heart of the Jewish people for thousands of years. He noted that no foreign conqueror ever declared Jerusalem as its capital. He noted that divided Jerusalem served as Israel’s capital from its establishment until it was reunited in 1967 and since then a united Jerusalem serves as Israel’s capital. He explained the point of this original bill is to tell the foreign countries to stop telling Israel they can’t build in their capital. He expressed hope that this bill will strengthen Jerusalem. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to give the government more time to come around and support it.
MK Orlev (J.H.) said this bill is important for the Jewish people in the Diaspora. He slammed the Labor party for doing a 180 and opposing the bill, something that hurt the advancement of the bill as a Basic Law. He said this isn’t a political bill but rather a Jewish bill. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to give the government more time to come around and support it.
Reward for Regular Soldiers and Civilian Volunteers to Ensure their Higher Education Bill
MK Braverman (Labor) explained his original bill would create a fund of a soldier’s yearly wages that will be put towards that soldier’s college tuition. He explained that the year of wages will reflect minimum wage. He compared his bill to former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s G.I. Bill. He suggested this bill will motivate young people to join the army and will even entice the ultra-orthodox to join the army and the Arabs to join the national service. He agreed that the bill’s price tag of two billion shekels is heavy and that is why his bill calls for a gradual process. He warned that prolonging the passing of this bill will lead to youth violence. He said that it is the responsibility of the rich to bail out the poor and they should pay more taxes to fund this bill. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to give the government more time to come around and support it.
Restricting Unauthorized Religious Activities in the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli Police Bill
MK Horowitz (Meretz) said his original bill will prohibit handing out material, prayer services, seminars and all other religious activities by someone who is outside of the army rabbinate in all army bases. He said that the army is not a place to promote religion or secular persecution. He went on to slam the separation of women from men in religious units and the women who are discriminated against and humiliated because they are female. He said that not allowing women to sing in front of men has no place in a democratic state.
Homefront Security Minister Vilnai (Independence) said that unauthorized religious activities by anyone outside the army rabbinate are already illegal and therefore there is no reason for this bill. He said that the army is going to great lengths to increase the number of religious soldiers and told Horowitz not to ruin it. He offered turning the bill into a motion and Horowitz agreed.
The motion passed 12-0.
Amendment to the Students’ Rights Bill
MK Zoabi (Balad) explained her amendment would give every citizen the right to take the matriculation exams free of charge. She stressed that students must be allowed to take their tests and graduate high school free of charge and her bill will accomplish that. She cited court rulings that deemed charging for the tests illegal and said that although the practice was stopped in 2005, this bill will prevent the education ministry from changing their minds in the future. She agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to give the government more time to come around and support it.
Amendment to the Student Health Education Bill
MK Agbaria (Hadash) explained his amendment would force the schools to teach a class on health in middle and high school once a month in order to promote a healthy lifestyle. He agreed to postpone the vote on the bill in order to give the government more time to come around and support it.
Amendment to the Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Bill
MK Matalon (Y.B.) explained his amendment would increase the grant soldiers receive when they are released. He said this bill is a social justice bill and should be supported. He called on the Arabs and ultra-orthodox to at least do national service and complete some sort of duty to their country.
Homefront Security Minister Vilnai expressed government support for the bill.
The bill passed its preliminary reading 28-0 and was sent to the Welfare Committee.
Regulating State Preschool Activity Hours Bill
MK Tiviaev (Kadima) explained his original bill would force all state preschools to be open from 7 AM until 4 PM. He said his bill would go into effect gradually in order to meet its budget requirements. He said the current situation where the preschools get out between 1 PM and 2 PM keeps women out of the workforce or forces them to work part time. He said this bill would help single mothers and allow them to work instead of collect welfare checks. He said in his hometown of Ofakim the unemployment is 12%, well above the 5.3% average. He said that including those on welfare the unemployment rate is 20-25%. He called on the government to get with the socialist program and take the riches of Tel Aviv and bring them to Ofakim.
Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) opposed the bill but suggested turning the bill into a motion. He said that the government plans on implementing this bill in the near future and therefore there is no reason to pass this bill.
MK Tiviaev agreed to turn the bill into a motion and said that if the government is going to go through with this bill anyways, the government should be supporting the bill.
The motion was passed 25-1. MK Sheetrit announced he voted from the wrong seat by mistake.
Amendment to the State Education Bill
MK Bielski (Kadima) said that 31,263 Israelis have died in traffic accidents, which is more than in all of Israel’s wars. He revealed that Israel has the highest child death rate in traffic accidents among the democratic nations. He noted that 70% of children ages 0-4 died because they weren’t wearing a seat belt. He explained his amendment would force the schools to set educational goals on teaching about road safety. He slammed the decision to lower the driving age to 16 years and 9 months and said that having more young drivers is not the answer. He said Israeli road rage makes the State look like a third world country.
Education Minister Sa’ar praised the idea in principle but opposed the bill on the grounds that there are already many hours dedicated to road safety in Israeli schools. He revealed that the number of hours Israelis learn about road safety in schools is among the highest around the globe. He asked if he should take away hours of Math and English for more road safety. He answered that it probably wouldn’t help.
MK Bielski said that the hours are not enough if Israel’s children die on a percentage basis more than any other democratic nation and the hours must be increased.
The bill was defeated 23-44.
Amendment to the Council for Higher Education Bill
MK Molla (Kadima) explained that his amendment would exempt students whose families live below the poverty line from university tuition. He said that if the government opposes this bill they are throwing away socialism for piggish capitalism.
Education Minister Sa’ar opposed the bill on the grounds that there is a fund of NIS 102 million for select students who live below the poverty line to go to college. He said that there is no reason to support this bill because for the most part what the bill is trying to create already exists.
MK Molla blasted Sa’ar and called him a liar and said that even if some students are helped, the fund must be expanded to include everyone.
The bill was defeated 23-40.
Amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance Bill
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) charged that the Trachtenberg committee is a farce and claimed that it was a fixed game that Netanyahu puppeteered. Hasson heckled Netanyahu and told him to listen up. Netanyahu responded that Hasson should learn some manners. Netanyahu told him that when he was a young MK he spoke with respect to the Prime Ministers and never attacked them. Netanyahu suggested that Hasson learn from his experience. Hasson responded that Netanyahu is wrong and that he is allowed to criticize him on such matters. He went on to speak about his bill. He explained his amendment would recognize the individual learning costs of business owners as a tax expense credit. He stated the bill will assist small business owners and help them learn more about their profession. He noted that this tax credit can only be used every five years.
Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) opposed the bill because there are certain circumstances where the bill already exists in law.
The bill was defeated 13-32.
Amendment to the Penal Code Bill
MK Adatto (Kadima) explained her amendment would increase the penalty for assaulting a social worker to five years. She said that social workers are on the front lines and should receive more protection than regular people. She agreed to postpone the vote for a week to give the government more time to come around.
Jeremy Man Saltan, a Knesset insider and legislative consultant to various groups and individuals. His hosts the first and only blog to cover the Knesset’s plenary sessions in English: http://knessetjeremy.com
About the Author: Jeremy Saltan is a frequent guest on various radio programs and and a veteran political analyst. He has run political campaigns in English and Hebrew for Israeli municipality, party institution, primary and general elections. Jeremy’s opinion pieces have been published, quoted or credited by Voice of America, Daily Beast, France 24, Washington Post, BBC, Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Israel National News and the Jewish Press and more.
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