Tibi irate Knesset didn’t recess for Id al-Fitr

Bills to re-arrest terrorists, end tuition subsidies to draft-dodgers pass; Calls to cut PA funding; ‘This is against deals we made,’ Arab lawmaker says

Ahmed Tibi at Israel Institute of Democracy forum 370 (photo credit: Courtesy IDI)
Ahmed Tibi at Israel Institute of Democracy forum 370
(photo credit: Courtesy IDI)
The Knesset showed disrespect for its Muslim members by not slowing down activities for Id al-Fitr, MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) said on Tuesday.
Id al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, began on Sunday night and continued through Monday, is an important Muslim holiday. The Knesset often makes sure not to vote on bills or hold meetings on issues of importance to Muslim MKs on that day.
This Monday, however, the legislature began the process known as “cleaning the table,” voting on as many bills as possible during the last week before the legislature goes on recess next Sunday.
“This goes against deals we made and traditions we’ve had for years,” Tibi said. “This is a negative change in the way Arab MKs are treated and it is unfair.”
On Monday, the Knesset held a discussion about transferring to Ramallah tax and tariff revenues that Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority, which Tibi initiated along with several other lawmakers. He asked Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi), Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) and Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon to postpone the meeting and was turned down.
During the meeting, MK Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi) called for the government to stop sending funds to the PA because it pays salaries to terrorists in prison.
“The murderers of [police officer] Baruch Mizrachi and the Fogel family [in Itamar] get salaries from our money,” she said.
Slomiansky said he would ask National Security Council chairman Yossi Cohen to clarify whether Israeli money is going to pay terrorists’ salaries.
Struck suggested that money be sent to the Israel Electric Corporation and not to the PA, as the PA owes the corporation more than NIS 1.6 billion.
Israel Electric Corporation director Yiftah Ron Tal complained that the government would not allow him to cut off power to the PA even though it does not pay enough and the Gaza Strip does not pay at all.
Tibi asked opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) to try to halt voting on controversial bills, especially the one that would allow young couples to buy their first apartment without paying value-added tax if one of them did IDF or national service.
Edelstein declined comment on the matter and a spokesman for Herzog did not respond by press time.
One bill that passed its first reading on Monday night was a measure proposed by Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) that would allow the government to rearrest terrorists released in diplomatic negotiations.
The legislation would also have the cabinet make the final decision on prisoner releases and not the president or the IDF. Releases would be conditional on continued diplomatic or security interests in relation to the cabinet’s decision and on the prisoner not returning to terrorist activities or crime.
“This bill is meant as a deterrent against future kidnappings so that kidnappers know that instead of doing something that will free terrorists, they are putting terrorists back in prison,” Elkin said.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said “this is an extreme, political bill that is meant to sabotage releases of Israeli captives and diplomatic agreements.”
The bill passed its first reading with 27 MKs in favor and 10 opposed on Monday night, and on Tuesday the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee finished preparing it for its second and third (final) readings.
Another bill that passed its first reading is one sponsored by MK Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi) that would take state-sponsored scholarships for college tuition away from draft-dodgers.
The proposal, which was supported by 28 MKs and opposed by seven in Monday night’s vote, would not apply to those who are exempt from army service, but to those who were ordered to enlist and did not and to deserters.
“It cannot be that public scholarships go to those who dodge the draft while their friends serve,” Chetboun said. “There is no reason that law-breakers should get taxpayer money.”