Knesset Passes PM's Two Bills

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JERUSALEM, Israel - In their second and third readings, the Knesset passed two controversial bills, which have been promoted by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, by comfortable margins on Monday.

By a vote of 61 to 42, MKs (members of Knesset) passed the "Mofaz Law," which allows seven MKs - instead of one-third of the members - to split off from their party to form a new party or join an existing one.

The bill was named after MK Shaul Mofaz, who lost the race for Kadima party chairman to Tzipi Livni nearly a year ago by a percentage point. Mofaz was in favor of joining Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's unity government, which Livni opposed, preferring to sit in the opposition.

The second bill, the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) Reform Bill, allows people to buy their property rather than lease it from the ILA, a government agency that controls 93 percent of the land.

Netanyahu wants to allow private ownership and what he believes would be more efficient land management by local planning commissions instead of a government agency.

Because Israel is a tiny country, opponents to the bill fear get-rich-quick schemes and potential environmental damage.

An amendment to the land reform bill provides for a ministerial committee with authority to add clauses that would limit the bill's scope.

"I chose to support the [land] reform on the basis of a personal promise that was given to me to establish a ministerial committee that will add amendments into the bill to ensure that the reform will not harm the values of the country as a Zionist state and so the land will not fall into the hands of foreigners," Freshman Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely said.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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