israelAM for July 23, 2015

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Norway Comes to Israel

The Knesset has advanced a bill that would allow a cabinet minister or deputy minister to resign from the Knesset, hold on to their cabinet post, and be replaced by another member of his or her party. The bill is call the “Norwegian Law” and is based on a similar law in, you guessed it, Norway.

In the Israeli electoral system voters elect parties, not individual candidates. Based on the number of votes they earn, each party gets a set number of seats in the Knesset. They then assign those seats to members of their party list. For example, if a party wins 6 seats, they give those to the top 6 members on their list.

Most cabinet ministers are also Knesset members, but they spend the bulk of their time on their ministerial jobs. The “Norwegian Law” would solve this by allowing them to focus on their cabinet positions and give their seats to their party colleagues who didn’t make the “list cut”. The law would only apply to parties with fewer than 12 Knesset seats and would allow ministers to take back their seats if they resign or are fired, bumping their sub back down to civilian.

The bill has been advanced by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who wants to quit the Knesset to let the next candidate on her Habayit Hayehudi list take her seat.

The new law could make the knesset a more efficient place and help decrease unemployment among party members who didn’t quite make it in the first time around.

Controlling the Law
Based on yesterday’s Knesset vote, the Israeli court system might be set to take a right turn. The vote appointed Nurit Koren (Likud) and Robert Elyatov (Yisrael Beitenu) to the committee responsible for appointing judges in Israel. When you add Justice Minister Ayalete Shaked (HaBayit HaYehudi), who is automatically on the committee, the chances of judges who agree with the policies of the current government are pretty darn good. Big win for Netanyahu, who threatened to scuttle the “Norwegian Law” if his coalition partners didn’t vote according to his wishes. Israeli politics at it’s finest.

EU vs. Israel, Again
The EU has already agreed to require labels that identify Israeli goods made in West Bank settlements. Now they’re contemplating imposing restrictions on dealings with Israeli banks who do business in the territories. That would include all of the major Israeli financial institutions. While product labeling hasn’t had a material effect on the Israeli economy, the banking restrictions could. For now there are no formal European Commission proposals in the works, but the sentiment in the EU is clearly not favorable for Israel.

Tourism Way Down
Tourism in Israel is still suffering from last summer’s Gaza war. According to the Israel Hotel Association, tourist overnights were down 25% in the first 6 months of 2015. Hotel room occupancy was down 9%. This translates into 1.2 billion shekels of lost revenue, besides all of the ancillary revenue loss to local businesses. Israelis have made up some of the shortfall by increasing their overnights by 8%.

Hiding the Ayalon
It will take many years and a half a billion dollars, but Tel Aviv officials have approved a plan to cover most of the Ayalon Highway (that cuts through the city) with parks, sports centers, bike paths, and cafes. Israel’s version of Central Park, without the horse carriages…well, you never know.

Sleeping and Driving
According to a survey by the Green Light foundation, 15% admitted to have fallen asleep while driving. They didn’t say how many were texting, reading, eating or holding their phones and talking behind the wheel. If you’ve driven in Israel you already know that percentage is way higher than 15%. Drive safely, for everyone’s sake.