Gearing Up for Election, Knesset All but Ignored Health, Women and Elderly in Recent Term

But there were a lot more laws and resolutions passed concerning issues such as officials’ travel abroad

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chats with Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List, in the plenum at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem December 26, 2018
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chats with Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List, in the plenum at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem December 26, 2018Credit: \ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

The outgoing Knesset took action on 3,214 matters over the past three and a half years, but only 1 percent involved health issues, women’s issues and the elderly, a survey by the Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel found.

Of all the legislative actions taken, only five concerned women’s issues, eight the elderly, 19 health, 32 education and 34 welfare.

The current Knesset was sworn in on May 14, 2015, and is now in its final stretch before the April 9 general election.

The Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel found that 22.6 percent of the actions were administrative decisions regarding things like appointments and travel abroad. Meanwhile, 7.2 percent were about housing and real estate, and 4.1 percent were about budgets and taxes.

Just 0.1 percent were about women’s and gender issues, while 0.2 percent were about the elderly and the integration of new immigrants. Some 1.1 percent were about welfare issues.

At the top of the table were housing and real estate at 232 legislative actions, including an emergency program for public housing, and one for planning and marketing properties for the ultra-Orthodox.

There were 133 actions concerning budgets and taxation, including reducing salary expenses at government ministries and in the public sector, improving the National Insurance Institute’s collection system, and implementing the coalition agreements between the parties in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Then came public administration at 74 actions, including the publication of material from the commission on the disappearance of Yemenite children in the country’s early years, and the decision on the logo for Israel’s 70th Independence Day.

This was followed by domestic and local government at 70 actions, including an aid program for the Kiryat Arba settlement and the nearby Jewish quarter in Hebron, and the defining as national priorities geographic areas with a high rate of illegal migrants.

Culture, heritage and commemoration came in at 66 actions, including an agreement for cultural cooperation with Myanmar, and the establishment of an educational, cultural and tourist attraction named after Rehavam Ze’evi, the far-right Tourism Minister and retired general who was assassinated by a Palestinian in 2001.

Industry and trade came in at 62 actions, including lifting barriers to the importing of breakfast cereals, reducing prices on consumer goods, and strengthening economic cooperation by employing Palestinian workers in Israel.

The eight actions concerning aliyah and the elderly included bringing to Israel the rest of the Jews waiting in Addis Ababa and Gondar, Ethiopia, and improving the finances of the elderly in Israel. The actions concerning women and gender included a policy for addressing polygamy, and monitoring ministerial activity to prevent the exclusion of women from the public sphere.

Einat Fischer Lalo, executive director of Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel, noted that there were 102 actions concerning officials traveling abroad and 90 on ministerial authority, but just 34 on welfare, 31 on education and eight on aliyah.

“This shows how the government’s attention is divided and what issues were highest on its agenda,” she said. “Examining the subject of the decisions is just the first step in examining the government’s activity. This has to be followed by a careful examination of how these decisions were implemented and how they affected people’s lives.”

The fields of science and technology, as well as religious services, also came in low, with 16 actions each. The former included advancement of the Digital Israel project and the commemoration for Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut who was killed in the 2003 space shuttle disaster. The latter included funding to employ rabbis for 2005 evacuees from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank.

There were 46 actions concerning transportation and road safety such as the establishment of regular flights between Israel and Uganda, and increasing safety for motorbikes and scooters. The 37 decisions regarding security included boosting pay for army conscripts, and government representation at funerals for members of the security forces.

The 35 actions in internal security and home front defense included efforts to prevent violence against medical staff, fight street crime in the Arab community, and bolster security in Jerusalem.

The 24 actions concerning tourism included building a cable car system at Jerusalem’s Old City, at Mount Tabor and in Upper Nazareth. They also included the building of an international tourism school in Jerusalem.

The 31 actions concerning education included criteria for building classrooms, rejection of a long school day, and an educational cooperation agreement between Israel and Mongolia.

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