Netanyahu at Knesset: I approved 'Boycott Bill' into law

Netanyahu slams Kadima for withdrawing support for anti-boycott measure, tells Zoabi: ‘You’re lucky to be in Israel, and not Syria.’

netanyahu cabinet meeting_311 reuters (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
netanyahu cabinet meeting_311 reuters
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday that he supports the so-called boycott bill, which was approved by the Knesset on Monday and has since faced protests and High Court of Justice petitions challenging it.
Following a Kadima-initiated Knesset session on “the Netanyahu government’s failures,” the prime minister, who is required by law to give a response to a Knesset discussion with 40 or more signatures, confirmed that he was in favor of the bill.
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“Don’t be confused – I authorized the bill. If I hadn’t authorized it, it wouldn’t have gotten here,” he said. “I am opposed to boycotts against Israel and boycotts against groups within Israel. I oppose boycotts of Arabs, of haredi people, and of any citizens of Israel.”
The newly-passed legislation allows citizens to sue organizations or persons calling for a boycott against Israel or parts of Israel, and forbids the government from funding such organizations.
Gush Shalom submitted a petition against the anti-boycott measure to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday.
Netanyahu also pointed out that Kadima originally supported the anti-boycott measure.
“You initiated the bill. Central members of Kadima – the faction chairwoman supported the law, and so did MK Ruhama Avraham-Balila and [former MK] Tzachi Hanegbi.
Why did Kadima MKs who originally supported the bill decide to oppose the final draft?” Netanyahu asked. “Because there was pressure, and you gave in to that pressure.”
The prime minister added: “If you don’t like the bill, there’s an easy way to deal with it – argue, convince, act, pull together a majority in the Knesset – that’s the democratic way. You don’t choose to respect laws you like and not respect laws you don’t like.”
“A law can be appealed in the High Court of Justice, and we respect the High Court of Justice. We will respect and defend the High Court of Justice,” he said said.
Netanyahu rejected claims that the bill is anti-democratic, and used MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) as an example.
“Earlier, an MK who participated in the provocative flotilla meant to break the state’s naval security blockade spoke,” Netanyahu said. He then turned to Zoabi and said, “You’re lucky that you are a member of the Israeli parliament and not the Syrian parliament, for example.”
Zoabi then began to shout at Netanyahu, “Go ahead, put me on trial! Put me on trial, like your soldiers should be put on trial!” The Balad MK was forcibly removed from the plenum, with MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) yelling after her, “You are garbage!”
“Those who are concerned about Israel’s image around the world need to stand before those who take advantage of the privileges that Israeli democracy gives them in order to turn every flaw into an attack on Israel’s very right to exist,” Netanyahu said.
“Enough people slander Israel, so I am asking you not to join them. Israeli democracy is excellent and will always remain so.”
Following Netanyahu’s speech, opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) accused Netanyahu of “creating hatred between different parts of the nation, between majority and minority.”
“This is a prime minister who does not know what democracy is. He is empty of all values. He doesn’t understand that equality isn’t a favor that you give someone, but a right that belongs to every citizen in the state,” Livni said.
“I will not let you, once again, create a supposedly patriotic right-wing battle against organizations that cooperate with the enemy. That is a trick that will fail,” the Kadima leader said.
“The battle is for the Zionist, Israel-loving majority that enlists in the army and fights, sometimes paying with their lives, for the State of Israel and its values,” Livni added. “There is a sane, nationalist, liberal, strong, Zionist center, and that center is represented by Kadima.”
Earlier Wednesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke out against High Court of Justice cases challenging the “Boycott Bill.”
“I hope the High Court of Justice will not intervene in the Knesset’s legislative process,” Lieberman said. “Separation of the branches of government is important in these matters.”
Lieberman also said he was disturbed by the fact that the Independence Party decided not to participate in the vote on the anti-boycott law, even though there was coalition discipline, requiring every faction in the coalition to vote in favor of the bill.
“The coalition cannot ask the same thing from us, if every faction does whatever is most comfortable for them,” he explained.
Lieberman called the law “correct and important,” because “the topic of boycotts has been prevalent for many years,” he said.
“It was very strange that we requested from others to do what we don’t do ourselves,” Lieberman said. “We can’t ask other governments to stop boycotts if we don’t do the same.”
“I cannot accept a boycott on the theater in Ariel or a the dairy farm in Nokdim. It’s impossible that large industrial areas near Ma’aleh Adumim or Barkan will be harmed. The ‘Boycott Bill’ gives equal opportunities to everyone, so that no people or places of employment will be ‘type B,’” the foreign minister added, in defense of the bill.
When asked if the Likud is stealing Israel Beiteinu’s thunder by proposing nationalist bills, Lieberman said, “No one has to steal our credit – we’re happy to share.”
“We support, congratulate and tip our hats to [coalition chairman Likud MK] Ze’ev Elkin,” who proposed the “Boycott Bill,” the foreign minister said.
“I think the Likud finally sees that we were right all along,” said Leiberman.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said his Independence Party strongly opposed the anti-boycott law. Speaking at a meeting of his party’s council at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, he said he expected the High Court of Justice to reject the law and everyone to respect the court’s decision.
Barak said his faction would also oppose forming a parliamentary committee to probe non-governmental organizations.
He said the bill by Israel Beiteinu MK Faina Kirschenbaum that will come to a vote next week was unnecessary and damaging, and he hoped it would be defeated.
The defense minister also rejected the idea of holding hearings for Supreme Court judges.
“I call upon the prime minister and the heads of the coalition to find a way to remove this idea from the agenda.”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.