MK suspension, lax gun control on agenda for last week of Knesset winter session

The Knesset’s Passover recess will begin next Sunday and end on May 22.

March 27, 2016 19:12
4 minute read.

The Knesset plenum . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

As part of the customary “table-cleaning” in the legislature ahead of a recess, the Knesset is set to vote this week on some of the most controversial bills to reach its docket in recent months.

The Knesset’s Passover recess will begin next Sunday, April 3, and end on May 22.

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Among these are a bill allowing lawmakers to suspend their colleagues by a 90-MK majority, which is scheduled to go to a second and third (final) reading Monday night.

The legislation, which was suggested by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and officially proposed by the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee, states that grounds for suspension are those listed in Basic Law: Knesset to disqualify a candidate from running, which are: incitement to violence or racism; support for armed conflict or terrorism against Israel; or negating Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

A majority of MKs, meaning at least 61, would have to petition the House Committee to suspend a colleague who violated those terms, and the final vote in the plenum would have to pass with a three-fourths majority.

Netanyahu proposed the bill after MKs from Balad, one of the parties making up the Joint List, met with the families of 10 terrorists whose bodies were being held by the police. The MKs stood in a moment of silence in memory of “Palestinian martyrs,” and the Balad Facebook page referred to the father of a terrorist who killed three Israelis as the father of a “martyr.”

Although the Balad MKs were condemned by lawmakers from every faction but the Joint List, and the US Constitution and a law in the UK allows for the suspension of legislators, the bill has been very controversial with even some MKs in the coalition opposing it. One of the arguments against it holds that, if an MK is convicted of a crime carrying moral turpitude, he or she would be automatically removed from the Knesset, anyway, while some opposition MKs argue it will be used for political revenge or to specifically target Arab MKs.

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said all the MKs in his faction will resign if it passes.

Another controversial bill set to go to a final vote Monday night is a temporary measure proposed by the Public Security Ministry to allow security guards to carry their guns outside of work hours and their workplace.

The reasoning behind the bill, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has explained, is for there to be more trained, armed civilians on the streets who can respond to a terrorist attack even if there is no police officer or soldier present.

In response to concerns about security guards’ guns being used for violent crimes, especially in cases of domestic violence, the bill includes an exception proposed by MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu), so that anyone with a criminal record of domestic or any other kind of violence would not be permitted to take a gun home.

Coalition parties also are expected to try to push for their flagship policies to be brought to a vote this week.

The NGO transparency bill, proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, was not on the Knesset’s agenda as of Sunday, but Bayit Yehudi planned to push for the bill, which already has passed a first reading, to move forward this week.

The bill states that any nonprofit organization that receives most of its funding from a foreign political entity will have to present itself as such, as well as list which countries support the NGO in any forum in which they are speaking with elected officials and in any publicly available texts – whether in advertisements, online, in written reports, etc.

United Torah Judaism is likely to push MK Moshe Gafni’s bill to ban non-Orthodox denominations from using public mikvaot, which states that dipping in the mikve must only take place according to the chief rabbinate’s guidelines.

The bill was proposed in response to a Supreme Court ruling that Reform and Conservative converts must be allowed to use the mikvaot, and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has said he would be unable to defend it in court.

The coalition will face a challenge with any bill it seeks to pass, as at least three Likud MKs are not committed to voting with their party – or at all.

Knesset Interior Committee chairman David Amsalem and Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee chairman Avraham Naguise have been absenting themselves from all plenum votes for the past three weeks in response to the Prime Minister’s Office’s decision to only allow 500 Ethiopian Jews to make aliya, despite a November cabinet vote to bring all 9,000 of them waiting in transit camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa.

Naguise confirmed Sunday that the rebellion will continue this week.

“I cannot vote with the government as long as it continues with a discriminatory policy against Ethiopian Jewish immigration,” he said.

The third Likud rebel is MK Oren Hazan, who has been a source of controversy for the past year and has been repeatedly targeted by the Likud establishment for his unreliability in showing up to vote.

Coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi punished Hazan by removing him from some committees, and Hazan proceeded to quit the other committees in which he was a member.

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