Right-wing, Arab MKs clash at Erez

Arab MKs call on Palestinian Authority President Abbas to halt peace talks and "move toward Hamas."

tibi 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
tibi 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
What began as a "day of democracy" to celebrate the Knesset's 59th birthday ended in an escalation of tensions between Arab lawmakers and right-wing activists led by MK Effi Eitam (National Union-National Religious Party) on Tuesday, as the two groups held rival protests at the Erez Border Crossing just outside the northern Gaza Strip. Hundreds of Arab Israelis led by the "Committee for Lifting the Blockade on Gaza" gathered at the crossing. Arab MKs Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad) joined in, carrying Palestinian flags and vowing to deliver food and other aid to the Strip. The Arab legislators called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to cease all peace negotiations with Israel as long as the IAF continued its air strikes on Gaza. "As long as Israel continues committing crimes in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority chairman cannot continue negotiating," said Zahalka. "Abbas must act like a national leader and take two steps toward Hamas, and they must take two steps toward him. The Palestinian people are the ones paying the price." A counterprotest quickly emerged, with Eitam being joined by dozens of party activists and sympathizers. During the demonstrations, Tibi called Eitam a "vile murderer of civilians," prompting Eitam to retaliate with "Tibi is a traitor, he is undeserving of his post and is trying to weaken the State of Israel." "It's enough to see Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi and Azmi Bishara's friends standing here with the flags of Palestine and weakening the State of Israel, which is doing all it can to fight Palestinian terrorism," Eitam said. (Balad MK Azmi Bishara fled Israel in March rather than face an indictment following a police probe into his relations with Syria, Lebanon and Hizbullah). Tibi expressed outrage at Eitam's decision to join the counterprotest, calling the lawmaker a "warmonger" who was only interested in perpetuating the current situation between Gaza and Israel, rather than working toward a solution. Israel sent heavy diesel fuel to Gaza's power plant on Tuesday, easing its blockade of the territory after five days amid growing international concern about a humanitarian crisis. "Such things must not take place in the 21st century, and I call on both sides to declare an immediate cease-fire, halt the shooting and remove civilians on both sides from the ring of fire," said Tibi.