Knesset to Debate MK Cassif Impeachment on February 19

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana (Likud) announced on Sunday, February 4, that the debate in the Knesset plenum on the proposal to impeach MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash) will be held on February 19.

The far-right message comes six days after members of the Knesset House Committee overwhelmingly supported a motion to expel lawmaker Cassif, voting 14-2 to advance his impeachment to the Knesset plenum following two days of contentious debate. During last Tuesday’s debate on Cassif’s impeachment, Hadash-Ta’al MK Ahmad Tibi warned the Communist lawmaker’s ouster would “set a precedent” allowing for the impeachment of “all the Arab MKs in the Knesset.” “This is a black day for the Knesset,” Tibi declares following the vote.

“The only thing that remains equal between Arabs and Jews in the country is the right to vote,” Hadash-Ta’al MK Aida Touma-Suleiman said in defense of Cassif. “In fact, with Tuesday’s debate, the members of the Knesset are gnawing away at the remnants of democracy that remain,” she said, accusing members of the committee of treating political opponents as “enemies and trying to silence the minority.”

MK Ofer Cassif during a demonstration against occupation of the Palestinian territories, December 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

The committee’s decision comes after Deputy Attorney General Avital Sompolinsky told lawmakers that attempts to expel Cassif from the Knesset lack a legal basis. According Att. Sompolinsky: “The intensity of the distaste and outrage at the action of a Member of Knesset is not a measure that establishes a cause for the removal from office of a sitting MK. Aversion to the actions and their condemnation is one thing, but the existence of a legal cause for the removal from office of a sitting MK is another. The removal from office of a Member of Knesset must be based on the concrete causes for removal from office that are laid out in Basic Law: The Knesset, in accordance with the purpose designed by the Members of Knesset, as these have been interpreted in case law, and according to the evidentiary criteria for the existence of these causes. These, and only these, can establish a cause for removal from office, and they circumscribe the boundaries of the debate that is before us.”

“The removal from office of a sitting Member of Knesset is an act that infringes very seriously upon the right to vote and be elected, the personal rights of the MK and political freedom of speech, and it must be done only according to law, and based on a well-established evidentiary foundation.  The removal from office of MK Cassif due to the petition he signed could breach, in a dangerous and precedent-setting manner, the criteria for examining the causes of disqualification [from running for office] and removal from office, as shaped and outlined in case law. From a broad perspective, this expansion could lead to the reduction of your political freedom of speech, the Members of Knesset, and could cause harm to Israeli democracy and its resilience,” said Deputy Attorney General Sompolinsky.

According to Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, “The motion to expel MK Cassif from the Knesset represents a grave violation of the right to vote and to be elected, and the right to political expression. It is a deliberate attempt to suppress political dissent against Israel’s brutal military campaign on Gaza.” “The Knesset and the state hit a new nadir with the House Committee’s decision to oust MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash-Ta’al) because of his support for South Africa’s petition against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The vote to oust MK Cassif for supporting ICJ is political persecution,” said the Haaretz’s editorial published on Thursday.