How active are first-time Knesset members as law-makers?
This is a follow-up to a recent article in which I showed the kinds of laws proposed by MK Itamar Ben Gvir of Otzma Yehudit, the purpose of which was to give some indication of the kind of legislator he was for the short time he was a member of Knesset. My conclusion was that given that none of the laws he proposed could be considered fascist or racist, perhaps there is not so much to fear should he become a minister in the soon-to-be-established government under Bibi Netanyahu.
One response to that article was to ask how many laws are generally proposed by other first-time MKs and what is the nature of those laws? To answer that, I searched for bill proposals tabled by other first-time Knesset members, one member of each party in the 24th Knesset — the outgoing Knesset. The list presented below is in order from largest party to smallest. The specific MK is the first new MK on the party list in alphabetical order in English.
The proposals are taken from the Knesset website showing those that were tabled by each MK as first initiator regardless of whether or not the bill was a totally new law, an amendment to an existing law, was a re-presentation of a bill raised in an earlier term but which did not make it past the preliminary reading stage, or a bill that was not approved by the Knesset Presidium (the Speaker and Deputy Speakers). In other words, anything the specific MKs saw fit to raise during their first terms in the legislature. I will describe (without comment) only a few of the laws proposed by each MK as there are too many for the scope of this article.
Likud First-Time MK Galit Distel Atbaryan (16 bill proposals)
Of her bills, nine were tabled at earlier Knesset sessions. three were rejected by the Knesset Presidium and two succeeded in reaching the committee for preparation for the first reading.One of these two seeks to modify income tax brackets and the other to eliminate the discriminatory handling of workman’s compensation regarding the self-employed in contrast with salaried workers.
Of her other bills is a law to reduce the time a person is held in administrative detention (when no indictment has been handed down) from 48 to 24 hours. Another amendment seeks to correct the oversight in not specifiying that there is freedom of worship in all sacred places as opposed to just freedom of entry. And another to codify who is permitted to function as a nutritionist.
Yesh Atid MK Inbar Bezek (12 bills)
One interesting thing about Bezek’s legislative initiatives is that, aside from one bill, she generally has a large group of co-initiators with her. In fact, a number of her bill proposals are a cooperative venture with both coalition and opposition MKs. Three of these widely supported bills concern correcting gender inequality in certain spheres, for example, encouraging businesses run by women, encouraging women to compete for leadership of local councils, and, interestingly, providing “maternity” benefits to the husband for up to six weeks in the case of stillbirth given the emotional challenges of stillbirth.
Nine of her bill proposals originate with her and only three are revivals of bills from earlier Knesset terms.
Shas MK Haim Biton (3)
With only three bills tabled by Biton, it is easy to describe all of them. In one, he proposes that the car licensing office take responsibility for recording annual kilometrage for each car so that those selling their cars cannot trick potential buyers into believing the cars travelled less distance than they did. Another law proposes a tax exemption for a portion of the cost of daycare for women earning up to a certain monthly salary; this law was tabled in a previous Knesset term And the third suggests that, for a period of three years after instituting a new budgeted project, the ministry will evaluate the usefulness of that project and the economic viability of it.
Blue & White MK Mufid Mari’ (13)
Of these, five are totally new bills prepared by Mari’ alone or as head of a small group of MKs and eight re-tabling of bills from earlier Knesset terms. His ideas include a law to cement Druze status in the State of Israel, cancel administrative fines for construction violations in which there have not been criminal proceedings against the suspect, institute salary payments twice monthly as opposed to monthly, standardize costs of English courses for university students who must improve their English, and a law for encouraging development of industry in outlying regions of the country.
Labour MK Gilad Kariv (41)
Kariv might be a loner because, in contrast with most of the MKs I have followed, who work with at least one other and more often with five or more MK’s, the great majority of Kariv’s laws have only his name on them. He seems mostly concerned with making amendments to laws that concern legal issues, whether these are in the civil courts, local rabbinic councils, or rabbinic courts handling marriage and divorce. He also proposed a law to commemorate Berl Katznelson and an amendment to the Holocaust Remebrance Law that requests attention be given to Jews who sacrificed their lives to save the lives of other Jews, something he felt would be important for youth to know that would combat the sense that the Jews “went as sheep to the slaughter.”
In an interesting fluke, we learn that not all laws that have a particular MK’s name on them were actually the work of that MK — and not just because it is an MK retabling a law from a previous Knesset term or a merging of similar laws together. The Knesset website has Kariv’s name on a detailed new law for honouring Golda Meir, for example, states that Merav Michaeli’s name was removed when she became a minister in the government. However, when downloading the law itself, only Michaeli’s name appears, with no mention at all of Kariv. A similar thing happened with a law concerning child support payments. In fact, a closer inspection shows that exactly 20 of the laws attributed to Kariv on the website list of bills, have only Michaeli’s name on the downloaded law.
This means that we really cannot know which law proposals were actually drawn up by the MK’s with shom they are associated on the Knesset website. However, when an MK agrees to be associated with a particular law as initiator, co-iniator, later joiner, or otherwise, it means that he or she agrees with the content of the bill.
Kariv apparently drew up 15 bills. One bill was merged with another law. Four reached the stage of first reading, one of which was rejected at this stage, and three still in committee being prepared for first reading.
Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rotman (39)
Of these, one bill was merged with a similar bill tabled by the government and five of his proposals were rejected before going to a preliminary reading. Of the remaining 33 laws, ten were initiated by him alone, and nine with relatively large groups of other MK’s.
Eighteen of the 33 bills were actually laws that had been proprosed in earlier Knesset terms but did not pass the preliminary reading stage and, therefore, had to be resubmitted in order to be considered. In this case, none of his bills made it through the preliminary reading stage and will have to be resubmitted in the 25th Knesset in order to be considered. It is possible that this is because his party, along with the Likud, were boycotting the committees in which laws are debated and modified for the first reading.
The laws tabled by Rotman largely deal with the legal system, who has the right to citizenship in Israel, and good government. Three interesting bills that are apparently original to Rotman propose repealing three laws that control agricultural produce “cartels,” restricting any but those approved by government to produce eggs, milk and peanuts.
Yisrael Beitenu MK Elina Bardach Yalov (18)
All of her bills remained at the preparation for preliminary reading stage when elections were called. Eleven of these originate with her.
One of her original bills proposes a discount in ambulance fees for senior citizens on national insurance pension only. Another proposes a day to commemorate the thousands of individuals living in Israel today who risked their live in neutralizing the Czernobyl radiation. Among others: to change the criteria for receiving maternity benefits, obligate digital platforms (apps, social media) to have a real person answer customers in cases of complaints of harassment or threats via the platform, include Soviet Jewry studies in schools, and various improvements to translations offered to olim (Jewish immigrants).
Joint List – no first-time MK
Meretz MK Gabi Lasky (61)
Certainly the most prolific of all first-time MKs, two of her (retabled) bills were merged with other similar bills, another was rejected outright (a retabled cannibis law), and three advanced past the preliminary reading to preparation for committee discussion before the first reading. The latter three include: 1. retabled law regarding discrimination against patients in any category; 2. an original law requesting standardized salary slips for all salaried workers; and 3. retabled bill requesting repeal of law against insulting civil servants as part of ensuring freedom of expression.
Of the remaining 55 bills, 21 were her original proposals. This far surpasses any other first-time MK. In one ambitious law, she writes an “Israeli Convention for Human Rights.” In others, she wants to obligate regional councils to verify that applicants and employees in places serving children do not have criminal records, to protect patient’s rights, rights for the disabled. Seven bills related to prisoner rights and police procedure/behaviour and three relate to the environment. The others cover a number of unrelated issues apparently of concern to her.
United Torah Judaism – no first-time MK
New Hope MK Meir Itzhak Halevy (2)
The two laws he tabled were ceased because he was appointed deputy minister. There were no other first-time MK’s in New Hope. In any case, one of these laws is one that is retabled from a previous Knesset term. The other, which Halevy initiated, concerns proper procedure if a member of the Knesset ethics committee does not participate in sessions.
Yamina MK Yomtob Kalfon (7)
Processing of all seven bills proposed by Kalfon was ceased when he ceased to be an MK. He became an MK according to the Norwegian Law when Matan Kahana became a minister in the coalition and was tossed out of the Knesset when Kahana resigned his cabinet position. Because there were no co-signers on these seven bills, they were simply set aside.
Still, looking at those seven bills, we find that four were retabled bills from previous Knesset terms and three were original Kalfon. These three included one law to enhance Israel’s connection with the Diaspora, one to help olim gain professional training with tuition assistance from the treasury, and one to make translation services accessible at all public institutions according to local needs.
Ra’am MK Mazen Ghanaim (9)
Two of his bills passed preliminary reading and were in preparation for the first reading when the government fell. Both were bills that had been tabled in previous Knesset terms; one deals with encouraging women to run for local council elections and the second deals with unemployment benefits for the self-employed.
Of the remaining seven bills that did not pass the preliminary reading stage, only one originated with Ghanaim. His bill recommends modifying the criteria for closing accounts when someone passes cheques when there are insufficient funds in the account to cover them. He claims that many individuals are still suffering from the financial impact of the Corona pandemic and cases must be determined on an individual basis and not by an overall law that generalizes for all citizens.
Back to Ben Gvir
Given the more detailed distinctions I made here among laws that were rejected outright, that passed and did not pass the preliminary reading, or were merged with other laws, let me go back to the bills proposed by Ben Gvir and look a bit deeper.
In the previous article, I distinguished between laws his name is the only name on the law (4) and those which are co-signed with others (15).
The only law to have made it to preparation for the first reading was the law requiring all public places serving food to have epinephrin on the premises. This was a retabled bill.
Four laws proposed by Ben Gvir were rejected by the Knesset Presidium. Two of these were original with him — 1. MKs will be given automatic immunity, the law will return to its 2005 version according to which immunity had to be requested or fell when the MK left the Knesset, and 2. judge selection whereby current judges will advise MKs who will then decide on new judges and not vice versa as currently stands. The two rejected bills that had previously been tabled are: public transportation discounts for the disabled and death penalty for terrorists.
Of the remaining bills, six originated with Ben Gvir. These are: tenders required for cars driven by government officials, Hebron Massacre Remembrance Day, establishment of a hospital in Dimona, establishment of committee that can fire educators who belong to terrorist organizations or support terrorism, require regular majority and not special majority for new government formed as a result of vote of no-confidence in the Knesset, converted Jews applying for aliyah to Israel much be converted “according to Halacha.”
It appears, therefore, that Ben Gvir was more active than some other first-time MK’s in having initiated eight bills that had never before been tabled in any previous Knesset term. Even with two of these rejected by the Presidium, that is still more than proposed by most of his first-time peers. Quantity is not necessarily quality, and the quality of his bills will be judged, in part, by how far they make it in future if they are retabled in the upcoming Knesset term.
What I learned from writing this article
I was unaware of how many laws are actually proposed each Knesset term, the great majority of which do not make it to even the preliminary consideration. I was also unaware of how many laws are regurgitations of previously tabled laws, some of them retabled repeatedly. This leads me to question how much legislative work is actually done by our MK’s given that retabling of already formulated laws could not take much time or effort.
Secondly, if a particular law is retabled multiple times, is that related to the quality of the legislation or to the attitudes of the Presidium that decides on which laws make it discussion in Knesset sessions?
It will be easier to follow legislation as it proceeds rather than in retrospect as I have done here. A new Knesset will be sworn in next week and they should soon afterward begin their legislative duties. I will be tracking new bills from the moment they begin to appear on the website.