Stormy panel rejects move to add cancer drugs

Sneh: Former health minister submitted the proposal to do nothing but alleviate his conscience.

cancer protest 1 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
cancer protest 1
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
As protesters outside the Knesset reached the 10th day of their hunger strike Tuesday, MKs inside had reached a stalemate following a fierce argument in the Knesset's House Committee. Coalition MKs faced off with members of the opposition in the stormy meeting, which had to be recessed for 30 minutes after chairwoman MK Ruhama Avraham was unable to quiet the sparring MKs. Ultimately, the committee rejected - by a 14-11 vote - Likud MK Dan Naveh's petition seeking a government allocation of funds to the 2006 health budget for the inclusion of cancer-fighting drugs Erbitx and Avastin. Coalition members in the committee opposed Naveh's proposal, and questioned his motives in raising the issue. Naveh served as health minister in the previous government and repeatedly refused to include the drugs in the health basket. Naveh, however, argued that the coalition MKs were rejecting his petition out-of-hand, because they refused to back a motion by an opposition member. "What I am proposing is the same thing that all of you claim to support, it is the same thing in your coalition agreement," said Naveh. "You are simply voting against it because you are so damn partisan. You are voting against it because I am the opposition and you are afraid to back me. You are doing the wrong thing!" MK Ephraim Sneh (Labor) led the charge against Naveh, by accusing him of ushering in the petition to cover his previous blunders in the Health Ministry. "His proposal is half-cooked and voting for it would be a shame," said Sneh. "He could have done it any time as health minister, and he wants us to buy this idea that he has finally found a conscience?" During the meeting, Ella Klein, one of the protesters on the hunger strike, blamed the MKs for engaging in a power struggle and failing to make headway over the issue. "They were just there for the cameras," said Klein. "Real people are here, fasting and protesting, and they squabble inside." Klein's mother was diagnosed with cancer two months ago and needs Avastin as part of her cancer treatment. Including Klein, there are four protesters who have been on a hunger strike for 10 days. Several others have joined in recent days. "I'm ashamed to be a member of this Knesset, where opposition-coalition factors take precedence over other considerations," said MK Esterina Tartman (Israel Beiteinu). "Life and death go beyond party principles." When the meeting concluded, Sneh said that he would appeal to Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson in an effort to persuade him to add NIS 154 million to the health basket during the 2006 budget.