The Bottom Line / Long Live Israel; the Knesset Is Dead'

MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) uttered sharp words after his bill to restrict private-member legislation was defeated on Wednesday in its third reading by a vote of 44 against and 27 in favor.

"The Knesset has decided it can carry on freely wasting public money. Well done, you are truly a responsible and serious Knesset. It's simply difficult to imagine where this egoism trip will lead to, with the will to legislate free of accountability; but who cares? The Knesset is alive and kicking and the state will be destroyed, well done everyone... All those with [MK Yaakov] Litzman, carry on wasting money, as you please. Long live Israel; the Knesset is dead."

These sharp words were spoken by MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) after his bill to restrict private-member legislation was defeated on Wednesday in its third reading by a vote of 44 against and 27 in favor.

Finance Minister Silvan Shalom initiated the bill after realizing the need to put the brakes on bleeding the public purse or face the risk of allowing the dozens of private bills waiting for debate to be passed and thus end this era of economic stability, destroying every chance of recovery from the current recession.

Pines-Paz, as chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, has nurtured this bill as his own child. In December 2001, he successfully chartered it through his committee by 7 votes to 1; and this week, he brought it to the plenum for its second and third readings.

The bill proposed that each private bill costing more than NIS 2.5 million (if passed into law) would require a majority of 61 MKs. In this week's second reading, two reservations were voiced: firstly, that the majority should be only 40 lawmakers, not 61; and secondly, that the sum should be NIS 10 million, not NIS 2.5 million.

Pines-Paz had hoped that with the acceptance of the two amendments, the bill (applicable only for one year) would pass and would lead us into a new period of responsibility, but he was in for a big surprise. Shas, United Torah Judaism, National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu, the National Religious Party, Meretz and some Shinui MKs planned an ambush and toppled the bill in its third reading.

MK Yisrael Katz (Likud), irresponsible par excellence, undermined coalition discipline and voted against the law proposal, as did the Meretz MKs, despite the fact that they have next to no chance of getting any private legislation through themselves, and in voting as they did, aided their nemeses, Shas and United Torah Judaism. Just as Aesop warned us in the fable of the scorpion and the frog, the Meretz lawmakers couldn't go against their own nature - the nature of extravagance - and, therefore, jumped into bed with the wasteful gang.

For example, at the last moment, MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) saw his Kibbutz Negba incorporated into the Negev Law. The kibbutz is north of Kiryat Gat, which is the official border of the Negev. In other words, if there were limits imposed on populist and sectorial private legislation, how could Vilan's kibbutz buddies get their income tax breaks?

This week, Pines-Paz won fame for his outburst. His attempt to promote the law and his sharp words earned him his place in the respected, albeit short, line of MKs who truly recognize the importance of the people of Israel and the state of the economy.