Rivlin: Action against Arab MKs on immunity could backfire

Knesset speaker warns action would set dangerous precedent that could affect right-wing MKs.

May 25, 2010 05:58
2 minute read.
Reuvin Rivlin picks tomatoes with his grandson Mat

reuven rivlin 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin warned Monday that stripping Arab MKs of their parliamentary immunity over their visit to Libya would set a dangerous precedent that could be later used against right-wing MKs as well.

The House Committee decided to accede to a request by coalition leaders to delay a vote on the subject until at least next week.

“Limiting the freedom of expression and narrowing the steps of an MK is a slippery and dangerous slope that will end in tyranny of the majority and canceling out of the majority,” said Rivlin, opposing the move spearheaded by MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) to strip the six MKs of their right to parliamentary immunity.

“The House Committee, which is a political forum, must not damage prosecutorial independence by opening procedures instead of the prosecution. Processes such as these should be initiated on the criminal or ethical levels,” continued Rivlin. “If there is anyone who believes that there is enough evidence to take steps against an MK on accusations of treason or illegally visiting a criminal state, they should turn to the attorney-general and demand that he open an investigation.”

Rivlin warned against using such “draconian” tools for MKs who were members of a political minority.

“Today it is the Arab minority, and tomorrow it will be another minority – things like that have happened in the past,” he said. “Tomorrow morning, they could demand to remove immunity from me just because I visited Homesh – it is a dangerous opening.”

The six Arab MKs in question – Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al), Muhammad Barakei (Hadash), Jamal Zahalka (Balad), Afo Agbaria (Hadash), Taleb a-Sanaa (UAL-Ta’al) and Haneen Zoabi (Balad) paid a two-day visit to Libya last month, during which they met with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Their visit has been the subject of heated debate, centering around whether or not it constituted an illegal trip to an enemy state.

“The six MKs whom we are discussing announced from every stage possible that they would boycott this meeting. This is a very serious act. I think that their behavior is condemnable at its base,” said committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) at the opening of the hearing. “MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) represents the peak, as she is now en route to the flotilla heading for the Gaza Strip rather than doing the Knesset work that she is paid to do.”

But despite his condemnation of the Arab MKs’ actions, Levine acceded to a request by Coalition Chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) to delay any vote on the topic, and hold an additional hearing to discuss the issue next week. Elkin expressed concern that any vote on the subject could be overruled by the Supreme Court.

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