So many laws, so little time

As occurs at the end of every session, the Knesset is in turmoil, trying to complete as much business as possible while leaving certain matters – important ones – up in the air.

By S. H. ROLEF
March 23, 2011 23:01
3 minute read.
NETANyahu at knesset 248.88

NETANyahu at knesset 248.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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At the end of next week the Knesset will begin its spring recess. As occurs at the end of every session, the Knesset is in turmoil, trying to complete as much business as possible. At the same time, certain pieces of business that should have been completed have been left in the air.

Among the bills that have been passed on second and third reading is one commonly known as the Nakba Law – passed Tuesday night by a vote of 37-25. Nakba is the term used by the Palestinians to refer to what they view as the tragedy that befell them on the establishment of Israel, and their defeat in the 1948/9 war.

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The new law is an amendment to the Foundations of the Budget Law, and authorizes the finance minister to reduce government financing to a body which has spent money on activities that: a) reject the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; b) incite to racism, violence or terror; c) support the armed struggle or acts of terror by enemy states or terrorist organizations; d) mark Independence Day as a day of mourning; e) physically spoils or shows contempt for the flag or emblem.

Except for (d) all the activities mentioned are already forbidden by law, though very little if anything is done to bring violators to justice.

Clause (d) was the real purpose of the amendment as originally presented by MK Alex Miller (Israel Beiteinu). More than a year ago, Miller introduced a bill that would turn marking the Nakba into a crime for which there would be a sentence of up to three years imprisonment.

The Knesset had the good sense to reject this bill out of hand, and the result was the current amendment, which wraps the abomination in cotton wool. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the state refusing to finance ceremonies commemorating the Nakba, but to suggest that there is something criminal about a people commemorating what it views as a national tragedy (and from a Palestinian point of view it was a tragedy, even if one they largely brought upon themselves) is an abomination.

The question now is what the finance minister will do with the new law. Will he stop state financing for rabbis who incite to racism on the basis of alleged halachic rulings, for political parties that call for turning Israel into a state of all its citizens, or for those who argue that it is more important to be Jewish (in the religious sense) than democratic? And if he will not do all this, will he dare stop the financing of bodies that commemorate the Nakba? The High Court of Justice will certainly have something to say about such an eventuality.

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ALONGSIDE THE passing of various laws, some more laudable than the one just mentioned, the Knesset also failed to conclude certain pieces of business that it ought to have concluded. One of these is the adoption of new rules of ethics for MKs.

In the course of the 16th Knesset a public committee, headed by retired Supreme Court justice Yitzhak Zamir was appointed by Speaker Reuven Rivlin to improve the system of parliamentary ethics following the shameful incident of double voting by certain MKs. After three years the committee published its report, and a new set of rules. In the course of the 17th Knesset the House Committee deliberated on the proposed rules, but its chairman, former MK David Tal (Kadima), seemed to do everything in his power to bury them.

In the current Knesset, the House Committee established a subcommittee, headed by Haim Oron (Meretz), to try to reach an agreed version.

Oron did his utmost to complete the task before his approaching retirement and submitted the proposed rules several weeks ago. Unfortunately, just as the House Committee was to have approved the subcommittee’s proposal, Kadima, whose representative rarely appeared at its meetings, decided to submit numerous amendments.

Some suspect that Kadima had ulterior motives. Under the circumstances, there was no way the House Committee could have completed its work before the recess. Whether Kadima acted in bad faith or was simply neglectful, it is a shame that the Knesset was unable to offer Oron a ‘retirement gift’ in the form of new rules of ethics.

The writer is a former Knesset employee.

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