Knesset Roundup | December 29

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Economic Development Plan for the Arab Population

Proposal for swift deliberation on transparency of the economic development plan for minorities

Special Committee for the Transparency and Accessibility of Government Information / Tuesday December 20, 2016

The discussion was held earlier this month.

ACRI’s Position: The plan for economic integration of the Arab minority has the potential to be one of the most significant developments in advancing the rights of the Arab population in Israel. However, many questions remain, and it is unclear to what extent the government is committed to the plan’s implementation, as well as how much will actually be funded and completed. Furthermore, the government is promoting different initiatives that would hinder the plan’s objectives and may adversely affect its implementation. For example, there is an initiative to increase enforcement of planning and construction laws in Arab towns; the implementation of this initiative is linked, explicitly or implicitly, to budget transfers that are part of the economic development plan.

The Arab public is familiar with broken promises, and has been privy to enough committees and reports. If the government truly seeks to turn over a new leaf in its relations with the Arab population, it should back up its words with actions and unconditionally implement clauses in the State Budget Law that are relevant to the economic development plan. Furthermore, there are many additional steps that the government should take in order to deliver true, full equality for the Arab minority.


Response to Queries

According to Knesset Research and Information Center report, most government offices completely fail to respond to queries – a reform on the matter is needed

Knesset Committee / Monday December 26, 2016

ACRI’s Position (in the framework of the Open Democracy Forum): A report published by the Knesset Research and Information Center, requested by MK Yoel Hasson, reveals many problems in government offices’ responses to queries submitted by Knesset Members. Many queries are addressed very late (which often renders them irrelevant), while many unanswered queries are not categorized as urgent, as permitted by the Knesset regulations.

The query tool allows citizens, through their elected representatives, to access information on government activities; the tool has great importance in terms of transparency of government activity and citizens’ ability to monitor and criticize it. Clear procedures should be enacted to respond to queries on time, and sanctions should be imposed on ministers who do not abide by them. Queries and responses to them should be publicized in a transparent manner.


Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom

Academic programs against the State of Israel grant college credits and scholarships

Education, Culture, and Sports Committee / Tuesday December 27, 2016

ACRI’s Position: Deliberations of this nature are the result of a coordinated and well-planned campaign of silencing and de-legitimization that has taken place in recent years, at times involving government officials, against those who do not fall in line with the current political majority. These include civil society organizations, as well as figures in the media, education system, academia, and judicial system.

Political interference in academic content and/or academic institutions’ activities infringes on freedom of expression and academic freedom in Israel. Higher education must be pluralistic, respecting and advancing a range of voices and positions in society.

Reviewing the list of organizations to volunteer in, selected by students enrolled in a class that was the subject of discussion, demonstrates a wide range of civil society organizations that address an array of social issues, take legal and legitimate action, and fill an important role in a democratic country, even if their positions or activities are not to the liking of some people in Israel. All citizens, particularly youth, should be allowed to think for themselves, establish their personalities and beliefs, and choose their social and political path in an open and independent manner within a range of options. This is the nature of democracy, and the beauty of pluralism.


The State’s Treatment of Asylum Seekers

Foreigners who cannot be deported from Israel, State Comptroller’s Report 64C – Follow-up meeting

ACRI’s Position (along with other organizations): Two and a half years have passed since the State Comptroller published a comprehensive report on multiple government and municipal failures in handling the issue of asylum seekers; to date the Government of Israel has chosen to ignore the report’s recommendations. According to the report, Israel’s asylum system does not function and the deliberate ambiguity regarding the rights of asylum seekers remains ongoing. An overall policy, the necessity of which the Comptroller noted repeatedly in the report, has never been formulated. In addition, the state continues to disregard the weakest populations, which the report called to address immediately. Among these populations are those who survived torture camps in Sinai, people with chronic diseases, persons with disabilities, women who sustained domestic violence, and others. The effects of not implementing the recommendations are evident on the ground, and the conditions of the weakened population are getting worse.

Since the State Comptroller’s report was written and a fence was constructed along the Egyptian border, asylum seekers’ entrance to Israel has nearly halted (a decrease of more than 99%). Now is the time to fully implement the findings of the State Comptroller’s report. The government must grant asylum seekers work permits and socio-economic rights, establish and maintain an independent and functioning asylum request system, and take immediate action to disperse asylum seekers around the country. Only by doing so can the state genuinely respond to asylum seekers and residents of southern Tel Aviv.


Inviting Organizations to Lectures at Schools

Breaking the Silence activities at schools

Education, Culture, and Sports Committee / Wednesday December 28, 2016

ACRI’s Position: School principals have the right and responsibility to provide their students with an open discussion on controversial issues in Israeli society. They should expose the students to different ideas; one of the ways this can be done is by inviting representatives from a range of organizations to the schools for guest lectures. The State Education Law determines explicitly that it is the education system’s obligation to do so, and school principles that conduct open educational dialogues on controversial issues are upholding their obligation according to the law.

Summoning school principles for “clarification talks” is another step in a series of inappropriate measures that the Education Ministry and Education Minister have taken recently, including threats and intimidation in the media, as well as adding an invalid amendment to the Education Ministry director general’s contract. These measures aim to intimidate teachers so that they not dare act against the spirit of the leadership. The Education Ministry must immediately retract changes to the director general’s contract and stop summoning school principals, who invited representatives from Breaking the Silence, for clarification talks.

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Categories: Democracy and Civil Liberties

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