The recent Likud-Yisrael Beytenu merger reflects a pervasive extremism that dominates the current political scene and can only be countered through the introduction of foreign sanctions against Israel, MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) declared in an opinion piece published Sunday in Britain’s The Guardian.
In the article, titled “It’s Time for Sanctions on Israel,” Zahalka claimed that the recent unification of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu parties is demonstrative of a rightward shift in politics, the outcome of which “is the fact that Likud has become more extremist, and Liberman more influential and more dangerous.”
In the piece, focusing primarily on Liberman, Zahalka denounced the foreign minister’s recent calls for both the overthrow of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the implementation of economic, political and security sanctions on the PA in response to its unilateral UN statehood bid.
The MK also accused Liberman of “racism” due to an alleged espousal of “policies hostile to Arab citizens of Israel,” including the foreign minister’s support for the introduction of a “loyalty oath” that would “oblige Arabs citizens to declare loyalty to the Zionist state as a condition for citizenship.”
In this respect, Zahalka claimed that “Liberman’s aim is to make the citizenship of Palestinian Arabs conditional and temporary [which] ultimately could result in a pure Jewish state, free of Arab citizens.”
Zahalka also compared Liberman to Jörg Haider, a far-Right former Austrian politician who was widely condemned for praising Nazis, and said that several European countries imposed sanctions on Haider’s party in response to his political ascent.
“Liberman is far more dangerous than Haider,” Zahalka affirmed. Therefore, he concluded that “the only way to ensure change is through pressure and sanctions on the Israeli government.”
“Whoever wants a just peace and to prevent looming wars, whoever wants to put an end to the crimes committed by occupation [and] whoever wants to combat racism must help in imposing sanctions,” he said.
MK Moshe Matalon (Yisrael Beytenu) called Zahalka a “hater of Israel and supporter of terror.”
“Zahalka would be hung in the center of town if he had said such things in the countries he represents,” Matalon added. “However, since we are a country with laws, we must remove him from the Knesset and put him behind bars for sedition.”
“Zahalka and his friends are committing diplomatic terrorism against the State of Israel,” Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely said in response to Zahalka’s article.
“It cannot be that a person who harms the country continues to be a member of Knesset.”
Hotovely added that she plans to appeal to the Central Election Committee to disqualify Zahalka from running for the next Knesset.
Last month, Yisrael Beytenu announced that it would submit a request to the Central Election Committee calling for Zahalka’s Balad faction to be forbidden from running in the upcoming Knesset elections.
MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu) was set to submit the request on behalf of the party on the grounds that Balad supports terrorism and acts against the existence of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.