Knesset to begin vote on reworked ‘Nakba Bill’

Israel Beiteinu bill levying fine for holding events marking ‘catastrophe’ on Independence Day expected to pass final reading.

NETANyahu at knesset 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
NETANyahu at knesset 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
With only five days of plenum voting left before the end of the Knesset’s lengthy Winter Session, Tuesday is set to be a dramatic session on the house floor.
Indeed, two highly controversial bills are up for vote – as well as a heated debate featuring Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni.
Tuesday’s session will open with a so-called “40 Signatures” debate, in which the prime minister is forced to address the Knesset, after the opposition gathered 40 signatures calling upon him to do so.
Such debates may be held no more than once a month – and opposition leaders in Kadima have ensured that no month goes by without one.
In recent performances, Livni and Netanyahu have traded personal blows, with Livni famously claiming to receive – in the course of the debate – text messages regarding Netanyahu’s character flaws.
Following the debate, the Knesset will begin to vote on a series of bills that Mks hope to get through the house before the Knesset leaves for Passover recess.
One of the more controversial bills expected to cause fireworks on the floor is the “Nakba Bill,” sponsored by Alex Miller (Israel Beiteinu) – which has been lambasted by civil rights organizations as discriminatory.
Miller’s bill, in its original form, would have authorized up to a three-year prison sentence for anyone commemorating “Nakba” (Catastrophe) Day on Israeli Independence Day. The re-worked version of the law would require the state to fine local authorities and other state-funded bodies for holding events marking Nakba Day by supporting armed resistance or racism against Israel, or desecrating the state flag or nation symbols.
According to the new compromise, any state-funded body that pays for the event would be forced to pay only three times its cost in fines – deducted from their operating budget. If the same person violates the law again over the proceeding two years, they will pay double the normal fine under the law.
On Sunday, over a dozen Israel Prize recipients and other prominent intellectuals, issued a statement slamming the bill as violating “the principle of separation of powers.”
The Nakba Bill is supported by the coalition, and is expected to pass its final reading on Tuesday.
A second controversial bill – that some fear would allow small communities to impose stricter qualifications on would-be residents – is also expected to pass.
The bill, co-sponsored by members of Israel Beiteinu and opposition party Kadima, would formalize the establishment of admission committees to review potential residents of Negev and Galilee communities that have fewer than 400 families.
The bill formalizes the compilation of such committees and legally empowers the committees to reject candidates if they: do not intend to establish their primary residence in the community; are minors; lack the economic means to establish a home in the community; or are revealed by a professional evaluation to not fit in with the community’s “socio-cultural” tenor.
The bill met with initial opposition from a number of civil-rights bodies, who received a leg up from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.
In light of concerns that such measures would institutionalize discrimination against Arabs, homosexuals, religious people and Sephardi Jews, the bill was recently returned to the committee.
In a rare step, an amendment that prohibits admissions committees from rejecting applicants due to “race, religion, nationality or physical handicap” will be added.