In its final legislative efforts before dispersing ahead of the next election, the 24th Knesset on Thursday passed a series of bills agreed to by the coalition and opposition, including legislation to provide financial grants to businesses harmed by Omicron, boost the rights of people with disabilities, better protect sex abuse victims, and recognize bereaved siblings of fallen IDF soldiers.
The approved legislative package includes a law strengthening the confidentiality of mental care treatments undergone by victims of sexual abuse and domestic abuse, so that those documents will become less likely to be revealed in court during criminal cases.
Another bill passed into law extends the time in which a civil lawsuit can be filed in sex abuse cases. Until now, civil lawsuits were only allowed to be filed within a year of the completion of criminal proceedings, regardless of any other statute of limitations. Under the new law, such a lawsuit in child sex abuse cases can be filed until the victim reaches the age of 35 — unless criminal proceedings were filed against the abuser after the victim already turned 18. In all other sex abuse cases, the cap on filing within a year after the end of any criminal proceedings will also be lifted.
A third related bill that passed on Thursday grants victims of sexual assault compensation of NIS 10,000 following a conviction, and mandates that the state pay out the fee and then take upon itself the responsibility for collecting the money from the offender.
And a fourth piece of legislation on the topic which passed increases the punishment for caretakers of young children who abuse them while they are responsible for their wellbeing. The bill calls to establish a minimum jail sentence for non-family members who abuse a child in their care and for those who commit acts of abuse on minors or helpless adults in an educational or therapeutic framework.
“The law will make it possible to impose a more severe punishment for these serious acts,” said Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, “and will increase deterrence for those who care for minors and the helpless.”
The Knesset also passed legislation approving financial grants to small and medium-sized businesses harmed by the Omicron wave of the coronavirus earlier this year.
The long-awaited bill greenlights state compensation to businesses with total revenue of between NIS 18,000 ($5,100) and NIS 80 million ($22.85 million) per year, if they suffered a 25% decrease in that figure during the Omicron wave (January-February 2022) compared to the same period in 2019.
The basic grant for businesses with total revenue of up to NIS 300,000 ($85,700) is between NIS 4,350 and NIS 9,350 ($1,240-2,670), with the sum increasing in accordance with the size of the company.
Other legislation that passed into law just before the Knesset dispersal recognizes the siblings of IDF soldiers or victims of terror as bereaved family members. Such recognition grants siblings the right to be officially notified of such deaths, be eligible for any rights through the Defense Ministry as well as be invited to official memorial proceedings. Until now, this status was only granted to the spouses, parents and children of those who died.
In addition, legislation that seeks to provide tools to enforce the Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law was passed unanimously in the Knesset Thursday morning. The new bill imposes financial sanctions on those who violate accessibility laws and expands the authority of the Justice Ministry’s commission on equal rights to file lawsuits on behalf of people with disabilities.
“As a society, we must create a vision in which a person with a disability will not be limited to reach any place or any goal,” said Sa’ar, who pushed for the legislation.
The legislative package also includes laws affirming details of the upcoming elections, including their budget, election-related state employees and special preparations for the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two major pieces of legislation that did not get approved, however, were the so-called Metro Law, which would have enabled progress on an ambitious, Tel Aviv-centered metro project, and laws that would have advanced Israel on the path toward obtaining visa-free travel to the United States for its citizens.
Angry over the failure to pass the Metro Law, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli’s key project, the Labor Party sat out the dispersal vote. The laws relating to the US Visa Waiver Program failed, meanwhile, amid Likud opposition, despite a direct appeal from the US ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, to legislators to put Israel’s citizens first by voting it through.