Call to Order / Israeli Citizens, Palestinian Parliament

Under MK Yisrael Katz's plan, anyone unwilling to identify with the Jewish state could vote in Palestinian parliamentary elections but still remain an Israeli citizen MK Yisrael Katz (Likud) calls his new plan "two parliaments for two peoples." Under the proposal, which would be implemented as part of a final status agreement, every citizen of the two states between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River would be able to choose which parliament to vote for, regardless of his citizenship. Citizens would not have to perform national service or declare their loyalty to vote for the parliament of the democratic Jewish state.

What does Katz hope to gain? That anyone who votes for the parliament of the democratic Jewish state, or is elected to serve in it, will be choosing to participate in the democratic process of the Jewish state. "Anyone who so chooses must understand the significance," he says. "Then he can't stand up in the Knesset and say he was imprisoned here."

The plan's premise is "no transfer for the Jews, and no transfer for the Arabs." Katz is opposed to transferring the Arab communities of Wadi Ara to the Palestinian state. "That doesn't solve the problem; they constitute only 150,000-200,000 people out of more than a million," he says. He says his plan embodies an overall solution. "There is a large number of Israeli Arabs who consider themselves Palestinian, who, against their will, belong to a Jewish state with which they don't identify," he says. "However, they are functioning citizens and they like living here." Therefore, he says, a creative solution is needed: "Anyone unwilling to identify with the Jewish state would remain a citizen of Israel and would have an Israeli ID card, but would vote for and be elected to the Palestinian parliament." This may even involve dual citizenship, he says.

Katz has already discussed the plan with Likud chair Benjamin Netanyahu, and intends to bring it up in the Likud institutions. However, Katz has been traumatized by the "Lieberman plan" for civic disengagement from the Gaza Strip, which he claims was copied from his "civic separation" plan. Now he is afraid someone else will take credit for "two parliaments for two peoples." From now on, it should be known as the "Yisrael Katz plan for two parliaments for two peoples."

Don't say occupation

Ahmed Tibi is angry. Two weeks ago he submitted a no-confidence motion on the "40th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the territories" on behalf of the United Arab List-Ta'al faction. The Knesset secretariat changed it to "Israeli control of the territories." The Knesset presidency - Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and her deputies, including Tibi - approved the change. This has led to a fundamental discussion on the wording of no-confidence motions and motions for the Knesset agenda.

For years, the Knesset secretariat has changed the names of such motions, even though MKs usually express far greater extremism while actually discussing the matters. We can assume that this time, too, nobody would have paid attention to the name of the no-confidence motion, whether or not the secretariat had changed it. But the Knesset has a new secretary, attorney Eyal Yinon, former deputy attorney general. Yinon saw no reason to change the name of the motion, but in the name of tradition, he instructed that it be changed from "occupation" to "control," and that the Knesset presidency pay attention to the question of principle.

At the meeting of the presidency, Itzik thought there was no need to change the word "occupation." Deputy Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) warned in response that he would file a no-confidence motion on behalf of the Likud, called "The most corrupt government in Israel's history." The presidency gave in and blocked the word "occupation." Tibi left the meeting.

Edelstein told Haaretz that as a third-term deputy speaker, he knows the Knesset secretariat always has been careful to ensure moderate language in the wording of the motions. Afterward, the MKs can be more outspoken in the plenary, thanks to their immunity. "Everyone can see that if we were allow the MKs give free rein to their fantasies, Ahmed Tibi would not win. Imagine what our friends [Avraham] Ravitz and [Moshe] Gafni [of United Torah Judaism] would write. It would become a slogan- writing contest."

In presenting the no-confidence motion, Tibi devoted nearly all his breath to what he called "word laundering." "This should not be done, and it crosses a red line," he said. "Occupation or no occupation is not a matter of semantics. For my party, this is the most sensitive issue. I was elected to the Knesset because of it. Former prime minister Ariel Sharon said 'occupation.' You don't want Ahmed to say 'occupation'? What hypocrisy! What is this, a thought police?" Tibi added: "I am stating categorically that the secretariat lacks judgment. It is inconceivable for a Knesset official to behave this way." These words aroused quite a lot of criticism, mainly because he attacked the Knesset secretary, who cannot reply to him in the plenum.

Yinon responds, "To blame us for that was unfair, because Tibi knew the presidency decides, rather than the secretariat." Beyond that, he agrees with Tibi that the secretariat should not intervene and believes he made a mistake by not leaving the motion in its original form. From now on, he says, the secretariat will intervene only in extreme cases, such as the use of epithets like "Nazi" or slander. "If the presidency wants to change the name of a motion, let it do so," he says.

Tibi responds: "After the fact, I discovered the Knesset secretary agreed with me, and therefore my problem isn't with him." He says he is very satisfied with the secretary's new policy. Now it only remains to be seen whether Edelstein's warning comes true.

Chairman wanted

It's not at all unusual for one minister to have several portfolios, but it's much more unusual for one Knesset chair to preside over two committees. However, National Religious Party chair Zevulun Orlev has been doing so for the past six months. Orlev originally was appointed chair of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee, a committee with few powers and little media coverage; some even question whether its existence is justified. At the same time, the Yisrael Beiteinu faction held the chairmanship of the State Control Committee, which is reserved for the opposition.

In October 2006, Yisrael Beiteinu joined the coalition and lost the State Control Committee. In December, Orlev became chair of that committee, but nobody wanted to take the Science and Technology Committee from him. Ostensibly, the job should belong to Yisrael Beiteinu. But that party demanded a much more important post, and in the end received the Finance Committee.

Orlev says he turned three times to former coalition chair Avigdor Yitzhaki, and nevertheless was left with two committees. This is a heavy burden, he says, and instead of convening the Science and Technology Committee twice a week, he convenes it only once a week. Two days from now, the committee will discuss global warming.

Yitzhaki says that when he resigned from his job, after demanding that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resign, he informed his deputy Tzachi Hanegbi that the science committee needed a new chair. He says this is a job for the coalition, particularly a Kadima member, and like many other jobs, it is awaiting a major round of coalition job assignments. "Now," he says, "they are waiting for the distribution of the goodies."

The judges' employer

Of the 12,000 petitions submitted annually to the High Court of Justice and the administrative courts (a type of mini-High Court), 4,000 concern the Population Registry. Interior Ministry director general Ram Belinkov presented these numbers to the Knesset State Control Committee last week.

Any way you look at it, this is astonishing. One out of every three petitions concerns one not-very-large administrative unit. The other two-thirds involve all the branches of the army, including the Civil Administration in the territories, the National Insurance Institute, the Income Tax Authority, all the local authorities, the Israel Lands Administration, the Israel Police and the State Prosecutor, among others.

Many of these petitions end in out-of-court compromises. This means that in many cases, the state is willing to give the petitioner what he legally deserves only if he has the energy and the means to turn to the courts. Another conclusion: The Population Registry has forced the administrative courts and the High Court to become its offices.

Ostensibly, this is even an improvement. In 2003, the Population Registry accounted for 38 percent of all petitions. But attorney Oded Feller of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) notes that 2003 was a peak year for expelling foreign workers, and that there were still many petitions regarding the reunification of Palestinian families. Now the Immigration Police are searching high and low to find foreign workers to expel, in order to justify their existence. For the past five years, the Citizenship Law has greatly restricted the reunification of Palestinian families. In spite of that, the Population Registry still maintains its senior position as an employer of the administrative courts and the High Court. It is also worth recalling that one lawyer's salary could employ three Population Registry clerks, thus eliminating the need for the petitions.