Balad MK Basel Ghattas.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
After Yesh Atid announced on Monday that it would join the initiative to impeach MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List), the Zionist Union leadership said it might grant its MKs the freedom to vote for or against the move, putting in doubt the possibility of it passing.
The initiative seeks to use the Impeachment Law for the first time against Ghattas, who is suspected of sneaking cellphones to Palestinian security prisoners.
The law, which was passed in July 2016, requires 90 lawmakers to vote to remove a colleague from office. The impeachment process begins by gathering 70 signatures, 10 of which must come from the opposition, is then voted on in the Knesset House Committee, and only then goes to a plenum vote. Yesh Atid’s announced participation in the initiative would put the number of signatures at over 70.
Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who initiated the move, on Monday night handed Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein the document signed by 72 MKs in order to begin the impeachment process.
The Zionist Union issued a letter to the Joint List, asking to urge Ghattas to resign by his own will. “The Zionist Union told the Joint List that it generally objects to using the Impeachment Law because of the basic notion that MKs should not impeach one of their own,” said Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog on Monday. “As I said from day one of the affair, if he would be found trying to harm the security of the country, he should be in jail, not at the Knesset.”
A Zionist Union spokesman added that if Ghattas will not resign, “the Zionist Union will grant its MKs the freedom to vote on their opinion.”
Several MKs from the Zionist Union have already declared their objection to the use of the law, making it harder to gather the 90 votes needed.
MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) said on Monday that Ghattas went too far, but that he would not support the impeachment. “Beyond the damage he did to Israel’s security, Basel Ghattas’s behavior damages the Arab public that is loyal to the State of Israel. Ghattas crossed red lines and the court should sentence him according to the law.
“However, the Impeachment Law is wrong. We should not allow Ghattas’s despicable behavior to harm our basic principles and we should defend our democracy,” added Peretz. “The Knesset has other means to deal with these kinds of cases when one if its members breaks the law.”
MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union), however, said he would support the impeachment if Ghattas would not resign.
“In this complicated reality created after passing the law, with Ghattas’s exceptional case in which he used his power as representative to harm the Knesset and the State of Israel… I am willing to isolate the democratic principle that is being hurt by this law (and support the impeachment).”
On Monday, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter, “Basel, I offer that you do yourself a favor, and also to your party, the Knesset and to the Israeli democracy and resign immediately from the Knesset.
“If you won’t do so, we [Yesh Atid] will sign the Impeachment Law,” Lapid added.
Ghattas sent a letter on Sunday night to all MKs, calling on them to oppose the impeachment. “I am still a representative and will keep serving my constituency. I do not ask anyone to agree or even to understand the circumstances of what I did, but I definitely expect from all of you to support my right to equal and fair treatment and to oppose all the discriminating steps taken by the police and the attorney-general only because I am an Arab MK.
“Using the Impeachment Law is punishing [me] before the facts became clear in court. I expect from every decent MK to oppose the usage of the law which is a great threat to the democratic regime,” he wrote. “Soon I will return to my Knesset activity under the restriction posed on me by the ethics committee. I will continue my battle to have a fair and equal procedure.”
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