Knesset clock is stopped over daylight saving time
Political disputes hold up bill to put Israel in sync with the world.
In Israel, daylight saving time ends Sunday at 2 A.M., when clocks will be turned back one hour. This year DST is in effect for 177 days, despite the recommendation of a government-appointed committee that it be extended to 193 days a year.
The duration of DST, more usually known as "summer" in Israel, varies each year. It begins on April 2 but ends on the Sunday before the Yom Kippur holiday, which falls between September 14 and October 14, in accordance with the Jewish calendar.
Proponents of the current approach say putting the clocks back before Yom Kippur makes the fast easier to endure.
The Knesset Interior and Environment Committee has not put the issue on its agenda for the past six months. A government-sponsored bill to end DST on October 1 each year was submitted to the committee in July 2011. It was considered only once, in February of this year, together with private members' bills that would permanently extend DST beyond October 1.
MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima ) proposed ending DST on October 10 each year, while MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz ) submitted a bill proposing that it be extended through the end of October, which would roughly bring it in line with the rest of the Northern Hemisphere.
The Knesset Interior and Environment Committee's February session adjourned without a vote on the bills.
Nearly 400,000 Israelis have signed a petition that calls for the permanent extension of DST beyond October 1. Failure to do so, the petition says, forces "millions of Israeli workers" to return home in the dark and to rise in the morning "after the sun has heated our already warm country." The petition states that ending DST earlier reduces the "quality time" that parents can spend with their children, increases the risk of traffic accidents as a result of more driving taking place after sunset, puts Israel out of sync with other countries and costs the economy hundreds of millions of shekels, in part due to increased energy expenses.
According to the minutes of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee's February session representatives of the Interior Ministry, which is headed by Eli Yishai of Shas, did not cite religious reasons for its opposition to the extension of DST. Instead, they provided a variety of other reasons for the ministry's lack of enthusiasm.
One nonmember of the committee who attended the session was MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ), chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. Gafni said that he did not view the issue as a religious matter, even if the clock reverts to standard time just before Yom Kippur. He expressed support for DST as a general matter, while noting that not everyone agreed with him.
When asked about nonreligious reasons for opposing the extension of DST, Drori Shapira of the Interior Ministry said they included the complaints of parents who say it is difficult to put their children to bed when it is still light out. That prompted Horowitz to ask about the number of children who nap during the day. Shapira also said there were no studies proving the economic benefit of extending DST.
National Road Safety Authority chief scientist Shai Sofer, however, said his agency had data proving that DST makes a substantial contribution to accident prevention. He noted that about 46 percent of traffic accidents take place at night. The chairman of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, MK Amnon Cohen (Shas ), responded that the government-appointed panel that studied the DST issue, known as the Kehat Committee because it was headed by former Interior Ministry Director General Dov Kehat, found no such effect.
Addressing the delays in advancing the legislation, Cohen said he had asked that a bill harmonizing the bills submitted by Horowitz and Tirosh be drawn up, but that no consensus was reached.
"We are working in cooperation with Horowitz and Tirosh," Cohen said, while claiming that the two have repeatedly asked for more time. "They apparently don't want to go with the government proposal because they are in opposition," Cohen said, adding, "I can pass a bill without them, but I am taking them into consideration."
In a response, Horowitz called Cohen's comments "ridiculous." He told Haaretz the legislation was stuck because Interior Minister Eli Yishai and the ultra-Orthodox parties don't want to extend DST and are finding excuses to stall even the passage of the government bill ending DST on October 1 every year. "They know secular people will just make a little noise for a few days and everyone will forget about it until next year," Horowitz said.
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