Knesset to nix UAL expulsion petition

Eitam calls to revoke party's place on Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

abu teir 88 (photo credit: )
abu teir 88
(photo credit: )
Contrary to initial reports, the Knesset was set Thursday to reject the petition of NRP-NU MK Effi Eitam who called for UAL MK Taleb a-Sanaa to be expelled from the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Senior Knesset members cited the reason that the Knesset's Appointments Committee had already approved the selection which could therefore not be overturned, Israel Radio reported. The petition followed the decision by United Arab List members to meet with a Hamas parliamentarian in east Jerusalem on Wednesday. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called the meeting an "official representation of terror in the Knesset." Livni went on to explain that Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed the revocation of Hamas PLC members' Jerusalem residency because "the right to be in PA parliament does not include the right to be a member of a Palestinian terror organization." Livni said that the Interior Ministry has the right to revoke the residency of whoever is deemed disloyal to Israel. Likud MK Limor Livnat echoed the calls of Eitam. "Whoever meets two days after an atrocious act of murder with officials who do not recognize Israel's existence cannot be a part of a committee which is entrusted with Israel's security," Livnat asserted. Haim Ramon, chairman of the Knesset Appointments Committee, said on Thursday that he intended to accept MK Effi Eitam's appeal, demanding to revoke MK Taleb a-Sanaa's membership in the committee. In an interview with Army Radio, Ramon said he viewed the meeting with Palestinian MPs as very severe, and that measures should be taken against UAL, claiming that "Every Israeli citizen, whether Jew or Arab, meeting with a representative of a terror organization, is performing a grave deed and in my opinion it is against the law, especially when he is a member of Knesset." Meretz Youth Chairman Uri Zacki, stated on Thursday that the manner in which Haim Ramon decided against the participation of the largest Arab party in the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, proved that the patronizing attitude towards the Arab minority in Israel does not only characterize the extreme Right. Zacki called upon Kadima MK Shimon Peres to reverse the decision and enable the representation of Arab-Israelis in all government institutions. Zacki told the The Jerusalem Post that he found Ramon's decision had a hint of racism. Taleb a-Sanaa, who on Monday became the first Arab MK to be appointed to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said the visit he and MKs Ibrahim Sarsour and Abbas Zakour made to the east Jerusalem home of PLC member Muhammad Abu Teir served the national interest. "We fulfilled our obligations to promote peace and end the cycle of violence cycle," a-Sanaa said. "We deserve a medal of honor. We don't think we should sit on the sidelines while people from both sides are losing their lives." But MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, called the visit "inappropriate." "I think it is wrong that somebody that is not entirely committed to Israel's security and to its military superiority should be a member of the committee," Steinitz said. NU-NRP chairman MK Zevulun Orlev said that the MKs who visited Abu Teir were "Trojan horses" in the Knesset and that "their immunity as MKs should be revoked and they should be brought to trial." Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines also blasted the three, saying their act was "unforgivable." "It would have been prudent if the MKs could have learned from [PA Chairman] Mahmoud Abbas, whose harsh response to the terror attack was stern and appropriate," he said. He also called on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to convene to discuss the "serious issue." A Likud spokesman responded to the meeting by saying that the Cental Elections Committee erred in its decision not to accept a Likud petition calling for the United Arab List-Ta'al faction to be disallowed from running for the 17th Knesset. "Its disqualification was required due to the close relationship between Hamas and the faction," he said the spokesman. A-Sanaa said his visit was also to protest the cabinet decision to revoke the Jerusalem ID cards of four Hamas PLC members, including Abu Teir. "We see this as a wrong decision," a-Sanaa said. "This ID was not given to them by grace. They are residents [of Jerusalem] because they live there and were born there. They are Jerusalemites from before the 1967 war." The cabinet decision followed Monday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. The government lashed out at the PA for not condemning the bombing. Revoking the IDs of the Hamas legislators will severely restrict their movement. In the case of Abu Teir, whose home is close to west Jerusalem, it may mean that he cannot stay in his house because if he were caught without a Jerusalem ID he could be jailed as an illegal resident. A-Sanaa said that the decision was political and not based on any crime they committed. "They are being punished because of their political views," he said. "This is against international law and the Oslo Accords." A-Sanaa may not serve much longer on the Knesset committee. His assignment is temporary and will be reexamined once the government is formed. Steinitz opposed his presence, due to the nature of the sensitive material examined by the MKs. "I was surprised when he was appointed to the committee... his position there will need to be reevaluated for the permanent committee," he said, adding that since a-Sanaa's party garnered less than the six seat minimum required to be part of the committee, it would be within the committee's right to remove him from the permanent committee. "I do not envy the next committee chairman if he needs to negotiate having a-Sanaa on the committee," Steinitz said. A-Sanaa said that the MKs came to Abu Teir with a three-point intiative: an immediate cease-fire, reciprocal recognition and a return to negotiations. "The new Palestinian government is against the Israeli occupation," he said, "but if Israel recognizes the Palestinian right to exist in the pre-'67 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital, I believe they can make peace and end the bloodshed."