This week the Knesset hosted hundreds of children from the rocket-plagued south. On Sunday some 500 children from Sdot Negev, Ofakim, Kiryat Malachi, Even Shmuel, Moshav Eitan and Kibbutz Sa`ad arrived at the Knesset for a day of fun-filled activities in the parliament building. They were greeted by the Knesset`s tour guides and took part in numerous activities. Among other things, they were given a tour of the Knesset and watched a magic show.
Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein took time out from his schedule to meet the children. ”The colorful atmosphere here speaks for itself. We see smiles and happiness of the children due to the hours of calm and relief here in the Knesset,” he said.
On Monday the Knesset hosted a group of children from Kibbutz Be`eri. The children were supposed to celebrate their bar and bat mitzvahs last week, but the celebration was postponed due to the constant rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israeli communities. While at the Knesset, they were given a tour of the parliament building and met Speaker Edelstein, who told them: ”I hope you will be able to return to the Knesset in the coming weeks, this time not because of the `situation,` but to tour the parliament and learn about its functions.”
For the second week in a row, much of the Knesset`s activities focused on the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas. During Wednesday`s meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Treasury officials said independent business owners and employees living within 40 kilometers of the Gaza Strip will be compensated also for indirect damage incurred.
Committee Chairman MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) said that ”in the current security situation the residents of south Israel are wondering each morning not only whether a missile will land on them, but also whether they will be able to make ends meet amid the economic damage created as a result of the security situation.”
Later, the Knesset plenum discussed a motion for the agenda on an ”economic protective umbrella” for residents and businesses in light of the security situation. Minister of the Economy Naftali Bennett (HaBayit HaYehudi) said: ”People are losing work days, and businesses are less productive. The Ministry of Economy has approved a 400 million shekel plan. I have turned to the finance minister and Bank of Israel governor and asked that they instruct the relevant institutions not to dishonor checks and delay payments of state taxes. The ministry is currently holding discussions on a compensation formula for indirect damage to businesses. I have instructed the Small Business Authority to help business owners file a request for compensation.”
This week parliament also marked the ninth anniversary of Israel`s disengagement from Gaza. On Tuesday the State Control Committee discussed the situation of Israelis who were evacuated from the Gush Katif settlement bloc during the disengagement. Committee Chairman MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) said, ”The state uprooted people from their homes and brought upon them genuine and difficult distress, and they should be compensated; their dignity, homes, land and livelihood must be returned to them.”
Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (HaBayit HaYehudi) mentioned that 143 evacuee families that are socioeconomically weak have yet to begin building their permanent residences. ”The state failed to solve the problem and deal with them appropriately,” he said.
During Tuesday`s special plenary session on the disengagement Knesset Speaker Edelstein said the evacuation of the Gush Katif settlers was a ”clear and blatant violation of their human rights.”
”The events of the past week have proven once again that the disengagement plan was not a logical diplomatic plan; rather, it was the result of a desperate need to force an imaginary viewpoint on a reluctant reality,” he told the plenum.
”The unilateral withdrawal came back to us like a boomerang; it deteriorated Israel`s security level, led to one war, three [military] operations, the kidnapping of soldiers, a constant trickle of mortars and rockets in south Israel, and an entire state barraged from its north to its south by a murderous terror organization,” Edelstein said. ”Today, this is my opportunity to ask for forgiveness. During the disengagement, some of my colleagues warned that missiles would be fired at Tel Aviv. Then, nine years ago, I did not believe them. I thought they were exaggerating; I thought their claims sounded like demagoguery; that it couldn`t happen under any circumstance. Today the argument has very nearly been decided.”
The Labor, Welfare and Health Committee also discussed the situation of the Gush Katif evacuees. MK Zvulun Kalfa (HaBayit HaYehudi), said the evacuees have ”grown tired of empty promises,” adding ”the government must complete the treatment of the evacuees. To this day evacuee children sit in unfortified caravillas (caravans), and the past few days have evoked traumas from the past.”
The Internal Affairs and Environment Committee also discussed the situation of the evacuees.
”The reality is bleak. There is not one body today which cares for the evacuees. The Tnufa Administration (the body charged with resettling thousands of Jews who were evacuated from Gaza) is not operating, and each family has to deal with the various government offices alone. We must set a deadline for the resolution of the problems of the Gush Katif evacuees,” MK Kalfa said during the meeting.
Committee Chairwoman MK Regev said ”it is a disgrace that a country acts this way towards its citizens. Nine years after the disengagement, and there is no body which operates (to resolve the evacuees` problems). It is the prime minister`s responsibility to make certain that every resident has a roof over his head.”
Regev announced that she was establishing a subcommittee to deal with the evacuees` problems. It will be headed by MK Kalfa.
Also this week, Jewish and Arab lawmakers exchanged insults during a meeting of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee which focused on the findings of a committee which investigated the conduct of the operators of the Judea and Samaria Police emergency hotline the night of the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers on June 12.
At the beginning of the session, which was also set to address the police`s handling of the Arab-Israeli riots which erupted following the murder of teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir, MK Jamal Zahalka (National Democratic Assembly) said to MK Mordhay Yogev (HaBayit HaYehudi) ”people of blood you are. Leave, people of blood.” Yogev replied: ”Got to Syria.” Committee Chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud) yelled at MK Zahalka: ”It is difficult for you to see your terrorist friends get killed!”
The session heated up once again after footage of Arab riots on the Temple Mount was shown. ”You have blood on your hands,” MK Zahalka told MK Yogev. Turning to MK Regev, he said: ”You as well.” Regev replied: ”You terrorist, hater of Israel.” Turning to the other Arab lawmakers, she yelled: ”You are Trojan horses in the Knesset! Traitors!”
On Monday the State Control Committee called on the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption to relax its criteria for governmental support and allow each Aliyah organization to receive support according to the number of new immigrants they are assisting, even if that number of is low. ”Every oleh is a world unto himself. The successful absorption of a family is 100% success. Anti-Semitism can awaken at any time in any country, such as France, as can extreme instability, like in Ukraine – and the country must be prepared to absorb diaspora Jews quickly,” Committee Chairman MK Cohen said.
On Monday the Knesset inaugurated a historic exhibit titled ”The Knesset`s Journey to Jerusalem,” which follows the relocation of the Israeli legislature from Tel Aviv to the capital.
The exhibit describes, for the first time, the process in which the Israeli legislature was created between 1948-49 in Tel Aviv; its four different homes in Tel Aviv; and, finally, the realization of the Zionist aspiration to move the Knesset and the government to Jerusalem.
We have been going through a difficult time this past month, with many incidents threatening almost all of the country`s citizens,” Edelstein said during the inauguration ceremony on the third floor of the Knesset. ”It is always easy for us to say that `things used to be easier,` but the new exhibit shows just how difficult things were back in the day as well.”