On Sunday the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee held a special meeting to discuss the implementation of the government`s decisions regarding natural gas. The committee, headed by MK Avishay Braverman (Israel Labor Party), has dedicated a number of meetings to the issue in an effort to ensure a fair price for industrialists and consumers and to fight the high cost of living.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Braverman demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appear before the committee and explain how the government`s policy vis-à-vis the gas market coincides with the public`s interest in developing the industry, increasing competition and lowering the cost of living.
On Monday the Knesset held its traditional Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, during which President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, government ministers and MKs read aloud names of Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
During the 25th annual “Every Man Has a Name” ceremony, six memorial candles were lit by Holocaust survivors and children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Supreme Court JusticElyakim Rubinstein and the chief rabbis of Israel, Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, were also in attendance.
Tuesday saw employees from the Knesset`s Visitors Center volunteer to instruct at-risk youth at Susan`s House in Jerusalem on how to operate the foundation`s visitors center. The Knesset employees taught the at-risk teens at Susan`s House how to guide people who visit the center and also gave them tips on how to produce a brochure, upgrade their Internet website and set up a telemarketing team.
Furthermore, the Knesset workers delivered to Susan`s House chairs, tables, shelves and planters that were collected especially for the at-risk youth center. The employees donated a vacation day in order to take part in the activity.
Also on Tuesday, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved the recognition of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel as a public body, thus giving it access to data from the National Insurance Institute of Israel (NII) and the Population Registry. The foundation funds additional nursing hours for survivors (2/3 financed by the German government and 1/3 by the Israeli government) and reimburses survivors for medical expenses incurred. The eligibility for the said aid is based on the eligibility for nursing care allowances from the NII.
Until now Holocaust survivors were required to present various documents that verify their eligibility to receive the financial assistance. The direct transfer of data from institution to institution will save the survivors the trouble of obtaining the documentation.
The Knesset Finance Committee unanimously approved on Tuesday a NIS 11.7 billion budget transfer to Israel Railways to finance its new operating agreement. At the committee meeting, both the Ministry of Transport director general and Israel Railways CEO Boaz Tzafrir said there has been a positive turnaround at the company, including leaner management, improved customer services, much better punctuality and safety, more daily trains, and the expansion of current lines and the building of new ones.
Finance Committee Chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (HaBayit HaYehudi) said it considers strengthening Israel Railways to be ”very important,” but it must meet the targets set and ”greatly increase the number of passengers and cargo trains to reduce road congestion and contribute to the campaign against traffic accidents.”
”An efficient and accessible railroad is a paramount public interest and a national symbol of an advanced economy. The Finance Committee will continue monitoring the progress of expanding the current rail network and the construction of new lines,” he added.
Although the Knesset is in recess, a special plenary session was held on Tuesday to discuss the financial crisis at the Hadassah Medical Organization and speculation that it could be shut down and dismantled. Hadassah filed for bankruptcy protection in February.
The session was held at the initiative of Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, after 25 MKs demanded it. Their petition stated that the threat to Hadassah of being dismantled ”is a sword pointed at the heart of an exemplary medical institution and tens of thousands of people who need it” daily.
Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen said the danger of collapse of HMO is one of the most unbelievable occurrences in the history of the state. ”For over 65 years it has treated Holocaust survivors, and this incredible institution gives service with the greatest sensitivity. On the one hand, the state invests millions in Holocaust survivors, and this is right, but on the other hand it insists on (not transferring) 50 million shekels. HMO workers should not have to say thank you, but we should tell them thank you,” he said.
”The priorities of this government are distorted. I heard that HaBayit HaYehudi enjoys 450 million shekels in the framework of coalition agreements. This is enough for nine years of (financial) security for Hadassah.”
MK Yakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), a former deputy health minister, said all of the hospitals in Israel cannot operate without assistance from the government. ”Why is the Health Ministry ignoring the fact that Kupat Holim Meuhedet (a large health maintenance organization) is banning Hadassah due to internal politics? How do they want the hospital to exist this way? Each month that passes without a solution increases the deficit by tens of millions of shekels,” said the MK.
”The 50 million that have yet to be transferred – this is a crime. There are people who are waiting for surgery but are denied because there are no nurses. We should not have reached this situation,” Litzman added.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud-Yisrael Beitenu) said he made a proposal not as part of the opposition or the coalition, but “as a Jerusalemite. We Jerusalem MKs know that if, God forbid, something happens to use or our families, the only help is one of the two hospital institutions in the city (HMO and Shaare Zedek Medical Center). We are very anxious and demand the health minister’s immediate intervention.”
”The Hadassah women must continue to be part of the system. Jerusalem is not only for Jerusalemites but for all Israelis, Jews as well as Palestinian Arabs together. The option of dismantling HMO must be dropped completely,” Rivlin said.
In response, Health Minister Yael German (Yesh Atid) told the plenary session that while the government has to take responsibility for HMO, in exchange it must ”get authority” to make decisions.
She added that any funds given to bail out the financially shaky institution and its two hospitals ”will come at the expense of the public health system.”
Minister German said that many charges have been made ”out of concern” for HMO, ”but I fear that not all the facts are known. I am involved in the details of negotiations not just once a day but several times daily. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been informed and is interested, and so is Finance Minister Yair Lapid, of course. But when one gives a team the job of negotiation, they have to have the authority to carry it out until the end.”
The health minister told the plenum that the Treasury and her ministry had put together a recovery program for HMO with the aim of stabilizing it and its two university medical centers so that the crisis does not repeat itself in another two or three years.
”We want this to be the last crisis. It’s not a matter of giving NIS 50 million, more or less. The government plans to invest hundreds of millions of shekels targeted for the whole public health system which you (MKs) have said is starving for funds. But giving money to Hadassah (which is a public health institution but owned by the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America) means that it will be at the expense of the public health system. Money doesn’t grow on trees,” she said.
”We understand that we must help, because the government and I know that HMO cannot be dismantled. It must be put on its own two feet. But it needs a long-term plan in which all sides are involved. This time, the government must supervise it,” German continued.
”Today, we don’t have the authority to see its financial records or to demand the dismissal of administrators, appoint a board of directors or dismantle the board. This must be changed.”