MK Haneen Zoabi.
(photo credit: BALAD SPOKESPERSON)
Controversial Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi confirmed Saturday she will not run in April’s Knesset elections.
Zoabi, 49, told members of the Balad Party, one of four parties that make up the Joint List, that she would be concluding a decade of work in the Knesset.
Her departure was largely expected after Balad held a primary in July, in which Zoabi came in fifth place. Balad had only three seats in this Knesset, and is unlikely to get five mandates on April 9.
“There were those who appreciated and supported my actions and what I represented and there were and still are many who hated and fought me and my opinions,” Zoabi said. “I couldn’t control the support and the hatred – and even less the envy and hidden personal battles – but I could control one thing: not to leave anyone indifferent as to what I represent.”
Zoabi has long been one of the Knesset’s most controversial members, since first being elected to the legislature in 2009.
She is best known for participating in the 2010 Gaza flotilla meant to break Israel’s naval blockade, aboard the Mavi Marmara, where other participants clashed with IDF commandos.
During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Zoabi wrote an article justifying Hamas shooting rockets at civilian populations, and she said the abduction and murder of three Israeli teens before the operation began was not an act of terrorism.
Zoabi was punished by the Knesset Ethics Committee for both incidents and for others, including physically attacking a Knesset usher.
The Central Elections Committee has also voted to ban her and Balad from running for seats in the Knesset, but the Supreme Court always reversed the decisions, upholding their right to run.
“The character assassination, ongoing incitement, the never-ending attempt – partly open, partly hidden – to make me disappear, to silence my voice, to distort my opinions and even my image, to disqualify me and to distance me from the political arena were all ‘very good’ grades given to me by those against me and the opinions I fight for,” Zoabi said.
She said the time had come to change the location of her efforts to strengthen the Balad Party model, to create a stronger generation of Palestinians – a more stubborn struggle and the belief that justice will be done.
Politicians from across the political spectrum didn’t hide their delight at the announcement that Zoabi would not be returning to the Knesset.
“Zoabi ought to have been removed from the Knesset six years ago, following my initiative in the Central Elections Committee,” said Science Minister Ofir Akunis.
“The High Court of Justice, in one of its most wretched decisions of all time, brought her back and the entire country suffered as a result for another six whole years in the Knesset. In any event, her departure is a great victory for IDF soldiers - first and foremost the forces that were on the Mavi Marmara.”
“Good that the senior representative of the fifth column is leaving the Knesset,” former defense minister and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman wrote on Twitter. “I wish her luck in Gaza or Beirut.”
“Haneen Zoabi was one of the most extreme voices in the Knesset, even in the eyes of the Arab community,” said Labor Party MK Yoel Hasson.
“Zoabi worked with all her strength to undermine coexistence in Israel and gave dangerous legitimacy to terror. It is good that she is gone, and she should be careful of her actions now that parliamentary immunity will no longer protect her.”
On Tuesday, the Joint List faction’s only Jewish lawmaker, Dov Henin, announced he too will not be participating in April’s election, bringing to an end 13 years in the Knesset as a member of the Hadash Party.
Fellow Joint List MKs Jamal Zahalka (Balad) and Masud Gnaim (United Arab List) will also not be standing for re-election.Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.
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