The Knesset's Labor, Welfare and Health Committee voted Monday in favor of a bill that would cut 50 percent off National Insurance benefits to citizens involved in serious terrorist crimes. Government lawyers had opposed cutting off all benefits to terrorists and the formulation is presented as a compromise between the state lawyers and the bill's initiators, MKs David Rotem and Robert Ilatov of Yisrael Beitenu.
The bill would reduce by 50 percent the stipends to Israeli citizens who were involved in terror activity and sentenced to at least ten years in jail for it.
The stipends that will be slashed are those for people suffering from work-related disabilities, accident insurance, unemployment benefits, bankruptcy, old age pension and surviving relative stipends. It will be brought before the plenum for its first reading.
MK Rotem said Monday, "This is a compromise I had no choice but to agree to. The original bill I submitted included a complete cutoff of stipends to anyone who was convicted [of terrorism]. The will to protect the state's citizens is not met with true understanding by all of the advisors in the government's ministries. When one seeks to harm terrorists, 'constitutional problems' crop up. The bill we have before us is better than nothing."
Attorney Shai Somech of the Justice Ministry told MKs who voted on the bill that "the use of stipends as a means of punishment creates constitutional and legal difficulties." In addition, he said, "punishment meted out after the jail sentence has been served and the fact that the more a person is needy, the more severely he will be punished – these are also problems. Even so, the bill's wording is acceptable to us despite the difficulties."
Uri Eldar of the Socialist Education Fund expressed opposition to the bill. "What will happen to a person who does not receive stipends after he completes serving his punishment? He will reach the welfare authorities and a social worker will have to take care of him, so what have we saved here? We need to act as a civilized country."
Welfare Committee Chairman MK Chaim Katz summed up the debate. "The blood of Israel's citizens cannot be shed freely. Let the terrorists see this and know that their old age and welfare may be damaged, and they will be deterred from terrorist activity," he said.