All Israeli citizens have the right to vote, but all must obey the law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, after pandemonium broke out in the Knesset during an exchange between Deputy Interior Minister Yaron Mazuz and Arab MKs.
Mazuz took the stand in the plenum to explain the government’s position, rejecting bills by MKs Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) and Zehava Gal- On (Meretz) that would allow Palestinians married to Israelis become citizens.
After continuous heckling from Joint List MKs, Mazuz said to them: “We’re doing you a favor by letting you sit here.
You should give back your [Israeli] ID cards.”
Then Mazuz turned to MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) – who participated in the 2010 Gaza flotilla in an attempt to break Israel’s naval blockade on the Mavi Marmara, which had weapons on board – and told her she should be the first to have her citizenship revoked.
“Terrorists will not sit here,” Mazuz declared.
Jewish and Arab Meretz and Joint List MKs rushed the podium, taking out their identity cards to hand to Mazuz, to the dismay of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who told everyone to quiet down and pointed out that approaching the podium during a speech is against protocol.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spontaneously took the stand in an attempt to dial back Mazuz’s comments.
“Every Israeli citizen, Jewish or not, has the right to vote or run for Knesset, but all citizens must obey the law,” he said.
“No one has the right to make false accusations that IDF soldiers committed war crimes.”
Netanyahu accused those who board flotillas to Gaza – like MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) – of hypocrisy for ignoring atrocities in Syria and Yemen.
Touma-Sliman spoke immediately after, saying that anyone who thought Netanyahu would condemn Mazuz’s statements was mistaken.
“The prime minister is justifying incitement against us.
Shame on him,” she said. “I am a native of this land. My father was born here before the establishment of the state. No one is doing me a favor by giving me an ID card.”
The Knesset voted against both bills, with nearly three times as many MKs opposing them than supporting them.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) was in the plenum during the roll-call vote, but said he would not vote. Zionist Union sat out the votes and did not participate in the shouting or the heckling.
In response, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On announced that her party will no longer coordinate efforts with Zionist Union.
Soon after, MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) took the podium to express disgust at what Mazuz said, but took issue with Meretz’s outrage, saying that his party and Meretz agree on a lot, but do not have to agree with everything. He does not support the bill, and he decided not to participate in the vote, because he objected to the tone the debate took, and he did not think he deserves to be shamed for it, Cabel added.
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said that, in the case of this bill, she agreed with the coalition and planned to vote against it, but decided not to vote because of what Mazuz said.
Livni also called Netanyahu’s remarks a continuation of Mazuz’s, criticizing him for not distancing himself more from the deputy minister’s comments.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett came out against the comments, saying “this country has equal rights for all citizens without difference in religion, race, or gender. That is the right of Arabs and Jews, and no one is doing any citizen a favor in him being a citizen, period.”