Knesset Round Up | May 21

Preventing Knesset Members from Traveling Abroad

Proposal for amendment to the code of ethics for Members of Knesset – addition of a clause entitled: “Trips abroad that are not funded by the Knesset”

Knesset Committee | Wednesday May 10, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. | Proposal for Amendment to the Knesset Regulations

The discussion took place two weeks ago. The proposal includes the addition of a clause to the code of ethics for Members of Knesset, which addresses the issue of trips abroad that are not funded by the Knesset. In accordance with the proposal, the ethics committee will evaluate the political positions of the inviting party, and authorize or reject the trip accordingly.

ACRI’s position: The proposal seeks to limit trips taken abroad by Members of Knesset based on the political beliefs or activities of the inviting party. The proposal is liable to violate freedom of speech and political freedoms in Israel, including the work of Members of Knesset (across the factions), their immunity and their ability to represent their constituencies. As such, we believe that instead of pushing the amendment, tools of transparency and ongoing reports on travel and meetings of public representatives – including the entities that fund them – should be employed.

The Nation State Law

Basic Law Proposal: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, by Member of Knesset Shuli Moalem Refaeli

Knesset Ministerial Committee on Legislation | Sunday May 14, 2017  | Determining Government Position

The discussion of the proposal was postponed. This is a final version of the Nation-State Law, which joins Member of Knesset Avi Dichter’s version, authorized by the Knesset Committee a week prior.

ACRI position: In recent years, several bills have been proposed that seek to enshrine into a Basic Law Israel’s definition as the nation state of the Jewish People. Despite slight differences between the proposed bills, they are essentially identical; they seek to redefine the identity and character of the State, prioritizing its Jewish character over its democratic character. These proposals explicitly violate human rights, democracy, and the minority rights of Arabs in Israel.

The issue of defining the character of the State is an important legislative matter with many far-reaching consequences. Everything should be done to make sure the issue has broad consensus despite the difficulties, and through taking into account all the needs and rights of all the various groups in the country. Any definition adopted must guarantee the rights of all the state’s citizens to absolute equality, without distinction of nationality, religion or ethnicity. This does not detract from the legitimate relationships that exist between religion and nationality in the State on other levels, such as societal, cultural, emotional and symbolic. However, regarding the legislative-judiciary level, the principle of equality requires that these connections do not distinguish between the rights and statuses of citizens in accordance with their national or religious identity.

Time Differentials in Ambulance Arrivals in Different CommunitiesDisparities that constitute life and death situations regarding ambulance time arrival differences between the center and the periphery

Special Committee for Legislative Justice and Social equality | Monday May 15, 2017 | 10:00 a.m. | Discussion

ACRI position: The discussion was scheduled following the disclosure of facts provided by Magen David Adom (MDA) to ACRI in response to a Freedom of Information petition we submitted. The data reveals that MDA does not have a protocol for deploying ambulances and that the estimated time arrivals for ambulances in many towns exceeds the target time determined by the Ministry of Health: within 10 minutes. In addition, disconcerting trends were identified in the difference in time arrivals between the center and the periphery and between different towns in the same area. Notwithstanding this partial information, it is hard not to get the impression that the average time arrivals are faster in Jewish towns as compared with Arab towns.

MDA has set a goal to improve its time arrivals, and does important work that saves the lives of all Israel’s citizens. However, the findings obligate the Ministry of Health to evaluate the situation thoroughly and provide the resources necessary for MDA to improve its time arrivals in general, as well as to prevent situations in which service is different in varying communities, with an emphasis on equality between Jewish and Arab towns.

Canceling Tax ExemptionProposal for Amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance (An institution acting for the benefit of the State of Israel)

Knesset Finance Committee| Monday May 15, 2017 at 10AM | Preparation for First Reading

Clause 46(a) of the Income Tax Ordinance determines recognition of donations to public institutions and nonprofit organizations for tax purposes – recognition that encourages donations to such entities. The proposal seeks to terminate the tax exemptions for donors to public institutions in Israel, when “activities against the State” are defined as one of the following: (A) Publication of information that implicates Israel in war crimes; (B) The call to boycott the State or its citizens.

The bill also seeks to narrow the definition of a “public institution” so that it solely includes public institutions whose “public objective” is directly connected to the citizens of the country or the Jewish diaspora. This differs from the current reality, in which the activities need to be “connected to the State of Israel,” which is a broader application of the law and encourages activity in the third sector.

ACRI position: This is an unconstitutional, unacceptable and anti-democratic bill. It raises an array of legislative difficulties: damage to the values of equality, freedom of speech and unionizing, as well as political persecution and violations of freedom of consciousness, human rights and the tradition of human rights in Israel.

The proposal is part of a comprehensive effort to undermine the work of organizations advocating human rights and social change whose agenda does not find favor with the political majority. It tries to “catch” this small group of human rights organizations (who deal first and foremost with migrant workers, asylum seekers and human rights in the territories) as well as social justice organizations (groups working for peace and to end the occupation, etc.)

It is unfortunate and disturbing that the fundamental principles of democracy must be repeated over and over again. Everyone knows that for any democracy to exist in general and prosper in particular, freedom of speech, unionizing, freedom for public criticism and protest, the freedom for human rights organizations to act and the freedom to hold a wide range of opinions and positions must be protected (including those that many disagree with). Political, social or other activities cannot be restricted in a democracy as a result of the political, religious or social worldviews of a specific sector of the country’s population, through taking advantage of the political power of that group at a specific time for the purpose of damaging those that are less popular.

Administrative Detention

Proposed Law: Counter-Terrorism Bill 5775-2015 – Preparation for Second and Third Readings

Constitution Law and Justice Committee | Tuesday May 16, 2017 1:30 p.m. | Preparation for Second and Third Readings

The hearing addresses the government bill to regulate the use of administrative detention. The proposed law seeks to transform the administrative detention arrangement into a permanent law that would become an integral part of Israel’s legal system, and in doing so, expand the authorities of the Minister of Defense to infringe on the freedoms of citizens.

ACRI position: The proposed law seeks to perpetuate the draconian, mandate-period regulations that do not befit a 21st century democracy. Administrative detention constitutes a grave violation of human rights and a way of circumventing a just trial, leaving a heavy stain on Israel’s democratic character. Administrative detention violates the right of a person to be free from arbitrary arrest, and is based on the unacceptable presumption that authorities can predict the future behavior of citizens. Administrative detention puts people in jail that did not commit a discernible crime and are unaware of what they are suspected of, through the use of confidential materials, and without the state being obligated to prove the risk they pose beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal court. Administrative detention allows the authorities to imprison someone without admissible evidence that proves their guilt, and absolves the security establishment of its responsibility to make the effort to collect admissible evidence necessary for putting someone on trial.

ACRI demands administrative detention and restrictive orders be annulled completely, or at least allow them only in extreme cases of emergency that are specially declared, in cases where there is a severe disruption of the ability of the law enforcement authorities to operate. ACRI recognizes the importance of effective counter-terrorism operations and the obligation of the country to protect its citizens from violence – however as a democratic country, Israel is required to fight terror in a way that is in line with its basic democratic character.

Discounts on Costs of Water

Discussion of Application of Benefits in Water Costs for Eligible Populations

Finance Committee | Wednesday May 17, 2017 9:30 a.m. | Discussion

ACRI position: The right to water is a basic right that stems from the right to life, to dignity and health, and the principle of equality. In light of the changes to Israel’s water economy, the cost of water must be reduced for all citizens. In the least, discounted water prices must be guaranteed to communities in need, whether for health or economic reasons. This should replace the current situation, which guarantees a solution only to a small group (and this is not through a discounted price but rather an expansion of the quota for a lower price). Israel’s Water and Sewage Corporation Law must be amended to include benefits and discounts on water that are not contingent on a budget that is subject to change, in order to ensure that populations in need can benefit from it permanently, and not on an annual basis.

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Categories: Democracy and Civil Liberties

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