News in Brief

Panel told: Let courts rule on MK immunity

Hebrew University legal expert Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer yesterday told the Knesset House Committee that parliament need not deal with the issue of stripping an MK's immunity. "This is a quasi-judicial function, and so authority for it ought to rest directly with the courts," Kremnitzer testified. He said the Knesset's credibility with the public has been damaged by recent discussions about lifting the immunity of a few parliamentarians. Also, MKs ought not to have immunity protecting them from authorized searches - such immunity exists only in three countries around the world, he said. (Gideon Alon)

Shas MK wants a dress code for House

MK Nissim Zeev yesterday issued a call for dress standards in the Knesset. In a letter to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, the Shas MK said the Knesset's regulations ought to be adjusted to prevent people from entering the parliament building in provocative dress. "It seems to me that Israel's Knesset ought to show some self-respect, and not allow women workers to arrive in immodest dress: Instead, they should wear respectable, solid, modest dress, in accord with standards used around the world." Zeev subsequently explained his request to Rivlin: "The Knesset is no social hall. I don't want to offend anyone, but some women respect the building, whereas others do not." (Gideon Alon)

Change to MK loyalty oath gets first reading

The Knesset yesterday gave first reading approval to a revision of the loyalty oath administered to MKs. Under a recommendation submitted by the Zamir Committee, the oath would not only require an MK to pledge to heed the laws of the state, but also to "uphold the dignity of the Knesset and act in accord with ethical norms that befit an elected MK." This first reading approval came on a day when a melee erupted during the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee hearing, and an MK and town mayor had to be physically separated. (Gideon Alon)

State wants more jail for underground

The State Prosecutor's Office yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court over the sentences delivered two weeks ago to Yitzhak Pas and Matitiyahu Shvu from the Bat Ayin Jewish underground. The Jerusalem District Court gave the men 15-month prison terms, and 18 months on probation. The state believes the sentences are too light, in view of the pair's convictions for offenses involving the delivery of explosives to be used in terror attacks. The sentences, state prosecutors contend in the appeal, "are insufficient to deter [others] from offenses involving firearms." (Yuval Yoaz)

One Nation's MK Tal suggests stopping lawmakers' wages in solidarity with workers

MK David Tal (One Nation) has suggested to the Knesset speaker that salaries to the Knesset members be stopped as an act of solidarity with striking local authority workers, some of whom have not received wages for months on end. Tal argues that MKs are no difference from the local authority workers and if the MKs do not receive their wages, they will be spurred on to bring about an end to the local authorities' crisis. (Zvi Zrahiya)

State Comptroller set to present damning report on Knesset administration in May

State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg is putting together a damning report on the Knesset operations. A draft of the report was recently passed on to the Knesset so that the parliament can prepare its response to the claims. The full report is due out in May. Goldberg has looked into how workers are promoted and tenders awarded. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said yesterday that "an extremely damning report by the state comptroller is on its way to the Knesset. The report deals with a host of matter, and reveals some serious phenomena that require attention ... It is clear to us all that what has been for many years can no longer continue." Rivlin also said that in light of the report, he has ordered a host of broad changes and reforms to the Knesset administration. (Zvi Zrahiya)

Prof. Sarah Yefet to get Israel Prize

The Israel Prize in Bible for 2004 will be awarded to Professor Sarah Yefet of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Education Minister Limor Livnat announced yesterday. "The importance of her contribution stands out in the realm of biblical historiography of the Second Temple period, and especially in her research on Chronicles," the selection committee wrote in its decision. Professor Yefet, 70, was one of the first students, and among the first three women, to complete an academic teachers program in the country. She has served as the head of the Hebrew University's Bible department, and of the university's Jewish Studies Institute. (Yuval Dror)

Fish cages off Eilat must be removed

The cages in which fish are being raised in the Gulf of Eilat will have to be removed within 14 months, according to a recommendation by a committee of government ministry directors general. The committee concluded that the cages were illegal under the national master plan. The Agriculture Ministry sought an extension on the period of time fish could continue being raised in the offshore cages in Eilat, during which time the committee would examine the possibility of increasing the number of fish raised in cages at the Ashdod port. The committee concluded that the number could be increased from the present 500 tons a year to 900-1,200 tons. The committee recommended that tenders be issued for the raising of additional fish offshore at Ashdod. The possibility of exempting fish growers in Eilat from the tender is being examined, although planners have voiced objections to the exemption because the growers are said to have been operating illegally. (Zafrir Rinat)