There was déjà vu in the Knesset on Wednesday. Six years after the plenum devolved into chaos in a discussion of Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi’s presence on the Mavi Marmara challenging the Gaza blockade, the same thing happened again when the Knesset debated the government’s normalization agreement with Turkey and Zoabi called IDF commandos “murderers.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to examine possible ways to remove Zoabi from the Knesset, saying “her actions and lies crossed every line and her place is not in the Knesset.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman wrote on Facebook: “IDF soldiers will continue fighting against terrorists at sea, on land and in the air, including terrorists at sea who are MKs.”
Zoabi demanded the government issue an apology both to the “political activists” aboard the Mavi Marmara, on which she sailed in solidarity, and to herself, from those who “incited against [her] for six years.”
In May 2010, a flotilla of six ships headed to Gaza and Shayetet 13 naval commandos boarded them and forced them to dock in Israel. Some armed passengers on the Mavi Marmara violently attacked the commandos and nine of the Turks were killed.
Zoabi said Wednesday that the nine were “murdered,” which is why Israel agreed in its agreement with Turkey to pay their families.
Several MKs began shouting and moved toward the podium to complain.
“Come hit me! Come hit me!” Zoabi shouted to MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), who was pointing and yelling at her.
As MKs mobbed the stage, Zoabi shouted “they murdered” and “shut up” repeatedly.
When Deputy Knesset Speaker Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu) asked her to apologize, Zoabi said: “The IDF soldiers who murdered are the ones who need to apologize! You need to apologize!” MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), a former Jerusalem police chief, rushed at Zoabi, nearly reaching her before he was stopped by Knesset ushers, shouting “You are filth!” several times.
Amar had Zoabi removed from the plenum.
During the chaos, MKs Oren Hazan (Likud) – who called Zoabi a traitor – and Jamal Zahalka (Joint List) – who shouted – were also removed from the plenum.
The following speeches focused on Zoabi and less on the agreement with Turkey.
MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) called Zoabi a danger to democracy.
“An MK calls IDF soldiers murderers, and she still gets a salary from the Knesset. Does anyone doubt that the suspension bill is necessary?” he asked, referring to legislation that would allow the Knesset to suspend MKs who incite, support terrorism, or otherwise violate the legal standards from running for a seat in the Knesset.
Levy spoke next, pointing to the nearly 40 Israel Air Force servicemen sitting in the visitors’ mezzanine and saying: “Zoabi won’t be allowed to call them murderers. She doesn’t belong here [in the Knesset].”
The Yesh Atid MK spoke about Balad, the party within the Joint List of which Zoabi is a member, calling it a “party of traitors,” and pointing out that its founder, former MK Azmi Bishara, fled the country while being investigated for giving sensitive information to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War.
Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis called Zoabi “a terrorist who participated in the terrorist flotilla... All she wants is to destroy the State of Israel as the Jewish state.”
Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) wondered if it would be quicker to pull the suspension bill and replace it with one that would just get rid of Zoabi.
“Zoabi lives off of provocations and endangers lives,” he said. “We must make sure she isn’t here. We’re sick of her. You can’t call IDF soldiers murderers.
We all have to unite to get this one MK out of here.”
Shas MK Ya’acov Margi said Israel has nothing to apologize for when it comes to the Mavi Marmara, because in any other country “it would have been hit with a missile and the passengers would have been sent back to Turkey in coffins.”
“Zoabi is taking advantage of our strong democracy and freedom of speech,” Margi added. “I am a champion of freedom of speech; it is our strength, not our weakness. But something has to be done.”
MKs Amir Ohana (Likud) and Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) submitted complaints against Zoabi to the Knesset Ethics Committee.
Earlier this year, the Zoabi and Balad’s other MKs were suspended from the Knesset after they met with terrorists’ families and stood during a moment of silence in honor of the “martyrs.”
Yisrael Beytenu faction chairman Robert Ilatov lamented that Zoabi “does not represent the Arab public and harms the delicate coexistence that many others are trying to build and protect in Israel.
“We must do all we can so that this detestable woman does not set foot in the Knesset again,” he added, saying Zoabi makes anti-Semitic statements and meets with terrorists’ families.
In the opposition, MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said “the agreement with Turkey is the right step, and calling IDF soldiers ‘murderers’ on the Knesset’s podium is intolerable.”
In 2010, after Zoabi participated in the Gaza flotilla, pandemonium broke out in the Knesset, with then-MK Anastasia Michaeli (Yisrael Beytenu) attempting to pull her off the stage” and former Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner saying Zoabi is single because no man would want to touch her. Both were punished by the Ethics Committee.
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