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(photo credit: Associated Press)
More than two-thirds of the members of the Knesset House Committee walked out of a meeting of the panel on Monday to protest a bill that would ban the Islamic Movement's northern branch.
MK Yisrael Katz (Likud) had asked the committee to speed up the legislative process for the bill. At the prompting of coalition Chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki (Kadima), however, most of the lawmakers got up and left, leaving only seven of the 25 MKs in the room.
Committee Chairwoman Ruhama Avraham (Kadima) was forced to cancel the vote, since Knesset bylaws require a quorum of nine MKs.
Katz had been promised a majority for the bill among panel members from the Likud, NU-NRP, UTJ, Shas, and Israel Beiteinu parties.
If the committee had chosen to speed up the legislation, it would have gone to a plenum vote later this week.
Yitzhaki, however, told Israel Beiteinu MKs that if they supported the bill, he would punish them by delaying the appointment of MK Stas Meseznikov (Israel Beiteinu) to the Finance Committee, a move promised the party as part of the latest cabinet reshuffle.
"This bill is unconstitutional, extremist and racist, and no member of the coalition should support it," Yitzhaki said.
Katz the coalition legislators had displayed cowardice and acted like "thieves in the night."
"Avigdor [Yitzhaki] has thrown himself in with the likes of [UAL-Ta'al MK Ahmed] Tibi just to show that he doesn't like my bill," Katz said. "This behavior shows disrespect to myself and to the committee."
Katz's bill would designate the Islamic Movement an "illegal corporation," outlaw fund-raising for the organization and make it impossible for them to run in national or local elections.
The Islamic Movement "incited anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish" sentiment, he said.
Katz said he had been prompted to draft the bill by the arrest of the northern branch's leader, Raad Salah, for attacking policemen at the Temple Mount.
"Just like Nasrallah became a hero after the Lebanon war, Salah became a hero in the eyes of Islamic extremists after his recent remarks and behavior," said Katz. "If we do not remove Salah from our midst, we will be building an Israeli Nasrallah with our own hands."