Justice Ministry working on new version of ‘Zoabi Bill’

Vote on legislation by Yisrael Beytenu MK Gal, to put burden of proof on MKs suspected of supporting terrorism, delayed so government an propose “softer” version.

KNESSET MEMBER Haneen Zoabi speaking with the press last year. Her party colleague Basel Ghattas has decided to join the Gaza flotilla (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
KNESSET MEMBER Haneen Zoabi speaking with the press last year. Her party colleague Basel Ghattas has decided to join the Gaza flotilla
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Legislation expanding the possibility to ban people who openly support terrorism from running for the Knesset is expected to be brought to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation next week, with the Justice Ministry’s input.
The original amendment to Basic Law: The Knesset by MK Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beytenu), was supposed to go to a ministerial vote on Sunday, but was pulled so that the Justice Ministry can “soften” it and come up with a compromise version that both Yisrael Beytenu and the government can support, Gal’s spokeswoman said.
Gal’s version would change the existing law, which states that anyone who acts in support of terrorism or armed conflict against Israel can be disqualified from running for the Knesset, to consider participating in unlawful activity against the IDF and publicly expressing support for terrorist or other illegal acts against the state and its citizens to be grounds for the Central Elections Committee to ban someone from being a candidate.
The legislation also puts the burden of proof on the potential candidate, as opposed to the accuser.
According to Gal’s spokeswoman, the bill will be brought to a Ministerial Committee for Legislation vote next week, in a version that includes changes made by the Justice Ministry to clarify what actions and speech can be considered support for terrorism, and how that support can be proven.
Gal nicknamed his proposal the “Zoabi Bill” after MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List), who participated in the 2010 Gaza flotilla on the Mavi Marmara ship that carried weapons and attempted to reach the Strip in spite of a naval blockade. Joint List MK Basel Ghattas, who, like Zoabi, is a member of the Balad Party, is en route to Gaza on a flotilla.
Gal, a former journalist, interviewed Zoabi last summer about the kidnapping of three teens in Gush Etzion, before they were found to be murdered, and she said the abduction was not an act of terrorism.
The Yisrael Beytenu MK sought to require Zoabi, Ghattas and others who partake in similar activities to have to prove that their actions and statements do not support armed conflict against Israel, before they can be allowed to run for office again.
“The intolerable reality, in which MKs from the Joint List show contempt for the state and collaborate with terrorists and their actions, must change. Whoever decides to continue this behavior, like Zoabi and Ghattas, will lose their place in the legislature of the Jewish state,” Gal said.
The state can no longer accommodate support for terrorism and incitement, Gal added, calling his bill critical to putting an end to the phenomenon.
“This is an important Israeli interest at this time,” he stated.
The Israel Democracy Institute opposes Gal’s bill, saying it severely and unjustifiably limits the basic right in a democracy to vote and be elected.
“Any limit on the right to be elected, which is central and important in a democratic government, must be as small as possible and any expansion of grounds for disqualification must be very carefully considered,” the position paper by Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Dr. Amir Fuchs reads.
The IDI paper also states that putting the burden of proof on the candidate is unfair and will bring the banning of candidates without any real justification.
In addition, Kremnitzer and Fuchs wrote, the bill will be interpreted as targeting the Arab minority’s right to representation, thus harming Israel’s international image as a democracy.