Joint List's Odeh threatens to resign from Knesset if bill is used to remove Balad MKs

Controversial MK suspension bill heads to first vote.

By
February 29, 2016 19:50
3 minute read.
Joint List head Ayman Odeh shouts slogans near the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

Joint List head Ayman Odeh shouts slogans near the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)

 
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The Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee on Monday approved a bill that would allow lawmakers to vote to suspend their colleagues with a 90-MK majority.

It is expected to go to for a first reading before the Knesset next week.

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Following hours of debate, coalition MKs voted in favor of the controversial amendment to Basic Law: The Knesset, which would allow 61 MKs to request that the Knesset House Committee suspend an MK. Following a process in the panel during which the potentially suspended MK can defend him or herself, 90 MKs would have to vote in the plenum for a suspension to occur.

The grounds for suspension would be those listed in the basic law for banning a party or person from running – incitement to violence or racism; support for armed conflict against Israel; or negating Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

The suspension could last as long as the remainder of the MK’s term; he or she would be replaced by the next non-MK on the party’s list.

The idea for the bill was originally suggested by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after MKs Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas from Balad, one of the parties making up the Joint List, met with the families of 10 terrorists whose bodies were being held by police. The MKs stood in a moment of silence in memory of “Palestinian martyrs,” and the Balad Facebook page referred to the father of a terrorist who killed three Israelis as the father of a “martyr.”

If the law passes, it will not be effective retroactively, so it would not apply to what they or any other lawmakers have already done. The Knesset Ethics Committee has already suspended the three legislators from all Knesset activity except voting for three to four months depending on their records.

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At the Constitution Committee meeting, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said, “We weren’t elected by the Right and we’re not trying to meet their standards,” threatening to resign from the Knesset if the law is used to remove Balad MKs.

“Good, no one wants you here,” MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu) retorted, to which MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) snapped, “Speak for yourself.”

When it was Forer’s turn to speak, he accused Odeh of being hypocritical in speaking about respect for human dignity.

“Someone who does not condemn terrorism should resign from the Knesset....When Adele Benita walked around [Jerusalem’s] Old City with a knife in her back, you wouldn’t condemn the vendors that ignored her. You honored [terrorist] Samir Kuntar after his death. Apparently, we Jews don’t deserve human dignity!” he said.

MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) said Arab lawmakers are compromising by being in the Knesset and cooperating with the Jewish state.

“The Knesset is one of the most racist places in Israel,” Tibi posited, “but we are here to represent our public and try to bring a change in the discrimination and racism we face. It’s hard to be an Arab in Israel, but harder to be an MK.

“These attacks and attempts to exclude us can lead the whole Joint List to quit. Then you will have a pure Knesset only for Jews forever. Maybe that is what you wanted this bill to accomplish,” he stated.

In a previous discussion of the bill last week, several opposition MKs accused Constitution Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) of utilizing a rarely used method for proposing legislation by which the committee itself drafts the bill because Netanyahu was worried that if it was proposed by the government Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit would reject it.

Attorney-General’s Office representative Ami Berkowitz said Mandelblit has said the bill cannot be called unconstitutional, but added that the Knesset must be very careful in legislating such a law.

“There are difficulties in having people judge their colleagues on an ideological basis, with a political majority, and decide to stop a serving MK’s term after he was legally elected,” he added. “It opens the ability of the majority to harm the minority and its right to representation.”

At the end of the meeting, opposition MKs tried to stop the vote from taking place, and shouted over Slomiansky, who had some lawmakers removed from the room.

MK Abdullah Abu Marouf (Joint List) disconnected and damaged a microphone while resisting being removed by an usher.

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