Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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15 Kislev 5764 - December 10, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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"Children's Allowance Should be Taken out of Arrangements Law"
by Eliezer Rauchberger

HaDorot HaBa'im Commissioner Retired Judge Shlomo Shoham presented to the Knesset his legal opinion regarding the Arrangements Law, calling for the removal of 12 issues, with those affecting cuts in Children's Allowances topping the list.

In his written opinion, Judge Shoham addressed the following 12 issues and paragraphs appearing in the Arrangements Law: disbanding the Local Committee for Planning and Construction; the activities of the Committee for the Preservation of Agricultural Land and Open Spaces; the obligation to allow elective medical experiments to be performed on humans; Children's Allowances; the Foundation for Children at Risk; water rates; didactic communication; lengthened school day and enrichment studies; the Dangerous Substances Law; annulling the Public Housing Law and the Evidential Judgments Law -- defending children.

The commissioner says the proposed legislative changes in these areas would have a major impact on the coming generations. The government is trying to pass very significant structural changes, he says, and various bills would have a negligible effect on the budget while many other issues in which the government sees significant long- term importance and repercussions are not in doubt. Therefore, he notes, all of these matters demand thorough, in-depth consideration and they cannot all be approved in the framework of the short deliberations for the Arrangements Law which does not allow holding genuine discussions.

He also said the proposals contain paragraphs on children that would have a dramatic impact on their lives, yet the relevant figures and effects the proposed legislation would have are not noted in the bills, as required by law.

The High Court rejected a petition by the Movement for Fairness in Government headed by Mordechai Eisenberg against the State of Israel, the Finance Minister, Bituach Leumi and the Minister of Labor and Welfare. The petitioner claimed that by cutting Children's Allowances, the Arrangements Law contradicts the Basic Human Dignity and Freedom Law.

In their reply, the High Court judges said the budget cut is legal since it was passed into law by the government and the Knesset. In response to a request by the petitioner to instruct the state to determine the minimal amount needed for dignified subsistence and to plan the national insurance and social system accordingly, the judges advised the petitioners to turn to the High Court in another two years when the effects of the diminished payments will actually be felt.

The petition claimed the allowances are not enough to ensure minimal subsistence for citizens when there have also been cuts in pension benefits, Guaranteed Income ("Havtachat Hachnasah") and handicapped benefits. The Finance Ministry and the government always viewed Children's Allowances as "supplemental income." Today every child receives NIS 4.80 per day, which constitutes "la'ag lerash" and does not ensure humane and dignified subsistence. The petitioner quoted a Bituach Leumi report that found the cut in Children's Allowances will add 135,000 children to the cycle of poverty.

The State replied that the question of assistance for citizens is in the hands of the legislative and executive branches.

Meanwhile, the Knesset House Committee opposed the paragraph in the Arrangements Law stipulating that the Interior Minister would be authorized to appoint new local planning and construction committees as well as a new chairman for planning and construction committees at local authorities, if he has reached the conclusion these bodies are not performing their tasks properly.

MKs Rabbi Gafni, David Azoulai and Vasal Taha demanded this paragraph be deleted from the Arrangements Law and considered separately, in depth, since it stands to cause a considerable change in the planning and construction apparatus and in local government authority. The committee members claim this paragraph demonstrates the government's disregard for the Knesset, since it has no connection to the economic plan or budget issues and therefore it should not be included in the Arrangements Law, which is closely tied to the Budget Law.

Committee Chairman MK Yuri Stern (HaIchud HaLeumi) said the amendment the government is proposing would allow crude intervention by the central government in local elected government, and therefore a solution should be sought within the framework of existing laws and regulations. He also asked government representatives to come up with alternative solutions for situations in which the government wants the right to intervene by dissolving local planning committees.


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