A Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee meeting on the proposal to allow 90 MKs to vote out a colleague turned into an hourlong shouting match that made no legislative progress on Wednesday.
“A democratic state has red lines, and whoever crosses them cannot be here,” Law, Constitution and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) said at the end of the meeting.
“This proposal is crossing a red line,” MK Revital Swid (Zionist Unon) responded.
The initiative, originally proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, came in response to Joint List MKs Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas meeting with the families of terrorists’ whose bodies are being held by authorities accusing the families of rejecting demands to hold a small funeral to avoid violence.
The legislators also took part in a moment of silence held for Palestinian “martyrs.” The Knesset Ethics Committee suspended the MKs from all parliamentary activities except voting, and police are examining possible criminal wrongdoing.
No bill has been submitted yet, but a draft has been authorized by coalition faction leaders to permit 90 MKs to vote out a peer they deem has committed inappropriate behavior.
On Tuesday, Bayit Yehudi called for the scope of the bill to be narrowed to violations of article 7a of Basic Law: The Knesset, which says anyone who rejects Israel as a Jewish and democratic state or supports or incites to terrorism, armed conflict against Israel or racism, cannot run for a seat in the Knesset.
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Slomiansky planned to have the committee work on drafting the bill on Wednesday, but did not get anywhere, because of incessant shouting.
MKs Swid, Michal Rosin (Meretz) and Oren Hazan (Likud) were removed from the meeting.
Rosin said that having the committee draft a bill suggested by the prime minister turns the panel into a puppet show, using the rules of democracy to harm anyone who doesn’t agree with the government.
“You’re being used to pass this law, which shouldn’t even be discussed,” MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) told Slomiansky.
“This cannot become part of Israel’s law books.”
Hazan called the MKs opposing the bill “haters of Israel.”
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) warned Hazan that after the Arab MKs, he would be the bill’s next target. The Likud MK responded that he is not worried about his post-parliamentary prospects.
Speaking in the plenum later, Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin, the minister tasked with advancing the bill, said many of its critics from Yesh Atid and Labor had cosponsored similar legislation in the last Knesset.
The bill the opposition parties had been drafting would have allowed the Knesset to suspend lawmakers who support terrorism with a simple majority, rather than 90 MKs.
“Look at where you were in the last Knesset and decide if you are for Haneen Zoabi or for the State of Israel,” Elkin said.
Also Wednesday, the Knesset Ethics Committee detailed its decision to suspend MKs Zoabi and Ghattas for four months and Zahalka, who had fewer prior offenses, for two months from the Knesset, except for voting.
Out of nearly 500 complaints, the committee quoted one from Micah Lakin Avni, whose father Richard Lakin was murdered by a terrorist whose father led the meeting with the Balad MKs.
Lakin Avni said he was shocked to hear MKs had met with the father of the terrorist responsible for his father’s death “without hearing a word of regret about his son’s actions.”
“When MKs meet with terrorists’ families and even promise to act on their behalf and call murderers ‘martyrs,’ it can invite their voters to commit similar crimes. This meeting, beyond being harmful and outrageous, only distances us from the dream of coexistence my father dreamt of for so many years,” Lakin Avni wrote.
The MKs from Balad, one of the parties making up the Joint List, responded that the meeting was only meant to help the families get the bodies back for burial, and that they had immediately after brought the information before Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.
They also said the meeting was not in sympathy for terrorism, that it took place in a cultural center and not in someone’s home or mourning tent. The moment of silence, the Balad MKs explained, was a Palestinian tradition to stand and read a passage from the Koran called Sura al-Fatiha in memory of fallen Palestinians.
The Ethics Committee wrote that it does not have a problem with the MKs connecting the families to the authorities about recovering the bodies, but rather the moment of silence, and publicizing the event on their party’s Facebook page.
“More than once the committee has differentiated between the broad political and ideological freedom of expression given to MKs, even when their stances are very far from the consensus, and identifying with and encouraging acts of terrorism against the state and its citizens,” the committee wrote.
“However, in this case, the legitimate activity was accompanied by actions that most members of the committee find not to be legitimate at all and crosses the line between parliamentary and humanitarian activity and actions that encourage and support acts of terror.”
The committee said that the MKs “stood in a moment of silence at a time when there are daily terrorist attacks and attempts against citizens of the state... Jews and Arabs.
“Most committee members thought that participating in such a ceremonial act at this time and publicizing it on the faction’s website could be interpreted as legitimizing terrorism and continued bloodshed,” the committee said.
Also Wednesday, the Knesset approved in a preliminary reading legislation that would make it easier to disqualify Balad from running in the next election.
The proposal by MK Oded Forrer (Yisrael Beytenu) would bar anyone who has incited verbally to terrorism to run for the Knesset.
The Basic Law: The Knesset, which Forrer’s bill seeks to amend, already prohibits Knesset candidacy to anyone who incites to armed conflict against the state, terrorism or racism.
Balad and its MKs have been banned by the Central Elections Committee from running more than once, but the Supreme Court has always overturned these decisions finding that the MKs’ behavior didn’t meet conditions stipulated in the law.
“Recently, Arab MKs have increased their rhetoric against the State of Israel and some of them incited to terrorism and supported terrorists,” Forrer said of his proposed measure.
“It cannot be that they will continue serving as MKs, and I hope we will not see these inciters between the walls of the Knesset in the next term.”
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