Knesset winter session 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Knesset Law Committee on Wednesday amended a bill that it had already approved for second and final readings that would establish admission committees for small communal settlements.
The move was initiated by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.
According to the changes approved on Wednesday, the law would only apply to settlements of up to 400 households located in the Negev or the Galilee.
According to the original draft, the legislation would have applied to communities of up to 500 households anywhere in the country.
Furthermore, the amendments narrowed the criteria whereby a residents’ committee could reject an application to move to their community, by ruling out rejections on the basis of personal status, age, land of origin, single family parenthood, political party affiliation and other criteria.
The bill, which was originally approved for second and final readings on October 27, stated that anyone who wished to buy a plot of land or an existing property in such settlements must first be approved by an admissions committee.
Rivlin, who attended part of Wednesday’s meeting to explain his
position, said he could not vote for the legislation as it had been
approved for second and final readings because it would harm relations
between Jews and Arabs in Israel and because it could open up the
possibility of discrimination against Jews in the Diaspora.
“I opposed the law out of concern and anxiety for our country,” he told
the committee. “Why do we need a law like this? Why don’t we make a law
whose aim is not to discriminate but to provide a solution to a national
need?” Rivlin’s solution was to reduce the size of the communal
settlement covered by the bill in order to emphasize the need to
increase the community spirit in these towns. An admissions committee
would be able to better ensure the communal character of the community
as long as it was still small enough to be regarded as a community, he
Also, the fact that only Jewish communities in the North and South would
be obliged to have admissions committees was in keeping with Zionism’s
pioneering tradition of building Jewish settlements in the country’s
remote areas, according to Rivlin.
“I wanted to raise the legislation to the level of a national mission,” he explained.
In return for Rivlin’s public support for the bill, committee chairman
David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) agreed to pluck the legislation out of the
plenum agenda and make the changes requested by the Speaker before
returning it to the plenum for final approval.
Left-wing and Arab MKs told Rivlin his changes were cosmetic and did
nothing to alter the bill’s racist content. They said the legislation
was meant all along to exclude Arabs from Jewish communal settlements,
as had already happened in several cases, two of which were currently
being contested in the High Court of Justice.
After an emotional debate pitting the left-wing and Israeli Arab
lawmakers against right-wing MKs and two Kadima legislators, Yisrael
Hasson and Shai Hermesh, who were among the sponsors of the bill, the
coalition MKs easily approved the changes suggested by Rivlin, as well
as a proposal by Meretz chairman Haim Oron to expand the criteria that
an admissions committee would be forbidden to use to reject an
application to join their community.