This Is Our Time
While I recognize the public's understanding that the unnecessary upcoming elections will be a waste of taxpayer money, these elections are also our chance to stage a revolution.The sense of immobility, despair and cynicism that dominate Minister's decision-making processes today, can be replaced with a whole new lexicon. If up until now Israel was stuck with Bibi, the time has come to understand the we're not talking about a heavenly decree and that these elections are a real opportunity for change.
The moment before the entire political system goes into overdrive for the elections, it is important to me to continue to expose the happenings in the discussions on the budget and the government's relationship to your money. The Knesset discussion of the 2015 budget began with a peculiar, unprecedented level of shadiness: Members of Knesset were given seven hours to "read" at the budget before they were asked to cast a preliminary vote. Allow me to describe the magnitude of the absurdity: The national budget is a 1,116 page document with thousands of sections and subsections, each of which impacts the lives of Israeli citizens — how the line at our doctor's office will look, how crowded our classrooms will be, whether or not there will be a bus to take to work in the morning — these all appear in the national budget. What doesn't appear — doesn't exist.
The decision to bring the budget to a vote at this speed constitutes bypassing the democratic process, as though Knesset Members are mindless puppets with no significance. When elected officials are prevented from looking into and studying the subjects they're asked to vote on its bad for everyone, most of all the Israeli public. This is why we had no choice: together with all of the members of the Labor Party, and MK Moshe Gafni who sits with me on the Finance Committee, we petitioned the High Court to prevent this bypassing of the Knesset. Unfortunately, the High Court did not accept our position and a few hours after the court's rejection, we held a discussion in which I spoke on the floor of the Knesset. I tried to show the public the box that held this tremendous budget that we were asked to read in so little time, but to my surprise, my request was refused. Apparently the Knesset is afraid that to show the public the box that contains all 1,116 pages of our national budget. And so, in violation of Knesset procedure, and in violation of all logic, the substitute Speaker of the Knesset demanded that the ushers physically take the budget out of my hands.
You can watch the speech, which includes this absurd interaction.
Thankfully, I'm not the only one who thought that this oppositionism odd — members of my panel on Channel 2 agreed with me. They invited me to tell them what exactly happened that night on the Knesset floor, and why the government is trying so hard to hide the budget. The clip of that discussion is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Jg4hLtXEY8
In the meantime, despite the fact that today's political agenda is now highly focused on elections, the Finance Committee continued as usual: Members of the government are still squeezing the public purse for their own needs, down to he last shekel. This week we were asked to vote on a budget cut of NIS 900 million to the public transportation budget (!) only four months after we had been asked to cut NIS 125 million from the very same budget. The government's 2015 national budget, which will clearly not be passed, contained another 24% cut, and ignores the fact that public transportation is the best solution to cut down on the number of car accidents, available jobs, affordable housing, and pollution prevention. Another lie I discovered in the health budget: while we were promised billions to increase the health budget to strengthen the public health system, it turns out that reality looks completely different. Listen to my interview with Keren Neuibach this week in which I discuss it.
You Know How They Raise Your Rent All The Time?
Last month I held an emergency conference in the Knesset last month for the advancement of the Fair Rent Bill together with my fellow Members of Knesset Hilik Bar and Orly Levy-Abekasis, the Student Association and representatives of the Student Union from across Israel, demanding that the law be passed during the Knesset's winter session. This month we were informed that Knesset had heard our call. The Justice Ministry and the Finance Ministry finally issued a Memorandum of Law based on our bill.
This past year we've held dozens of meetings across Israel to garner support in the broader public for our proposed bill. Thousands of students joined in support, as did many landlords who have decided to implement the bill's principles now — and all of this even before the law passed. Last week we decided to try a creative idea: we invited stand-up comedians, renters, to tell us about their housing troubles and traumas at a special evening crowded with hundreds of angry renters who came out in support of the bill. A huge thank you to Guy Eldar, Lilach Barnea-Leshem, Tom Aharon, Lilach Vilch, Tomer Fishman and Gilat Hugi who proved that it is possible to push for legislation in new ways. Another thank you to the members of "Dor Hadash" from Tel Aviv University and to members of the Young Guard for their important and marvelous participation.
You are invited to hear some of the jokes in a piece that Galei Tzahal Radio did for the radio, and a write up in Calcalist. The full sketches will be uploaded this week to the website of Fair Rent — its worth a "like" on Facebook.
Unfortunately, despite the enormous progress we have made, the Prime Minister has decided to break up his coalition and turn his back on two million Israeli renters who finally felt that, at long last, someone cared about them. I will continue to fight for them in any way possible until we can ensure that Israel will also provide a fair rent.