Rivlin: Government must initiate social rights bills

ACRI skips meeting on settlers’ rights; MKs discuss rejected Basic Law: Social Rights.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin 311 (photo credit: Courtesy: Knesset Channel)
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin 311
(photo credit: Courtesy: Knesset Channel)
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, along with opposition MKs, on Tuesday called for the government to initiate more social reforms, while other MKs complained that NGOs ignore the human rights of settlers.
All this happened during one of the many events held in the Knesset in honor of International Human Rights Day, which will be marked internationally on December 10. However, because the Knesset does not hold meetings on Saturdays, it was commemorated there on Tuesday.
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“The place to discuss social rights is not only in the opposition. The government must initiate legislation on its own,” Rivlin said at a conference to discuss the failed proposal for a Basic Law: Social Rights.
He called for his own party to enact reforms, saying: “The Likud must be more social and more merciful. The Likud, whose philosophy comes from [Zionist leader Ze’ev] Jabotinsky and [former prime minister Menachem] Begin, must raise the flag of this just social struggle.”
The proposed Basic Law: Social Rights, which was drafted with the help of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and submitted by 10 MKs from coalition and opposition parties, was rejected in its preliminary reading last month. The bill calls for “recognition of the value and sanctity of human life,” as well as the right to dignified living, nutritional security, housing, education, social security and other rights.
“Governments headed by the Likud have rejected time and again Basic Laws for social rights, saying we should wait until there is a constitution,” Rivlin explained. “We cannot wait anymore. I supported this bill in its preliminary reading in order to call for the government to initiate its own essential document [on this issue].”
MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz), who initiated the conference together with ACRI, called for a “renewal of the social contract between the state and its citizens,” saying that now is the appropriate time to anchor social rights in legislation.
“Instating social rights is expensive, but the price of not having these rights is even higher,” she said.
Much of the discussion at the conference involved the reasons the coalition opposed the bill. The explanation given by coalition leadership is that each of its parties has the right to veto bills, and ultra-Orthodox parties automatically reject any Basic Law.
MK Amir Peretz (Labor) said that the legislation would benefit haredim, and that their parties should support it, but when a similar initiative was put to a vote in 1997, then-Shas leader Arye Deri told Peretz that he would vote against the Ten Commandments if they were proposed as a Basic Law.
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said that he supports the points put across by the bill, and that there are “1,001 things the government should do [to increase] social rights.”
However, his party opposes Basic Laws, because they were used by courts in the past to approve measures that are against Halacha, Gafni said.
“If we’re speaking seriously and not in a populist way, I think we should fight for these rights even without a Basic Law,” he added.
MKs on the Right called for a more bipartisan approach to social rights legislation.
MK Orly Levy-Abecassis (Israel Beiteinu), who cosponsored the Basic Law, took offense at those who implied the Right is opposed to social rights.
“I came from a Likud household where social rights came first,” Levy-Abecassis, the daughter of former foreign minister David Levy, said.
She said that last summer’s tent protests involved people from every political party, and it is the responsibility of all MKs to help the weak.
MK Arye Eldad (National Union) said that he would “bring those who proposed this bill down to earth, from their high sphere of pretension.”
According to Eldad, the bill will only pass once those promoting it can separate their political positions from human rights. Human rights NGOs and those who organized the social protests “excluded an entire segment of society that also faces troubles,” he said. referring to settlers.
He also said that judicial activism, which “saws off the branch that the Knesset sits upon,” is the reason many parties oppose Basic Laws.
Earlier in the day, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee held a meeting called by Eldad to discuss human rights for settlers.
Committee chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) and Eldad slammed ACRI, whose representatives were invited but did not attend the meeting.
“Aren’t residents of Judea and Samaria humans?” Rotem asked. “I know quite a few human rights organizations, but not one of them came to the discussion.
“Either they don’t really care about human rights, or they’re political and hiding behind human rights, or [they think] that residents of Judea and Samaria are not humans,” he said.
Eldad said that the first two ideas were correct.
“Even someone who thinks Jews shouldn’t be in Judea and Samaria must agree that they have human rights,” he said. “These organizations fight for Arab children, but not for Jews in Judea and Samaria. They’re concerned about the rights of a very specific population group.”
Rotem and Eldad said that settlers also deserve freedom of expression, the right to live in dignity and the right to organize protests.
Debbie Gild-Hayo, ACRI’s director of policy advocacy, said that there were many events in the Knesset involving human rights, and the NGO was not able to send representatives to all of them.
They chose not to attend the Law Committee meeting because it “excludes a population group that lives in the territories [Arabs]. We can’t participate in a discussion about rights for only one group and not everyone.”