Undemocratic MK Expulsion Bill Passes First Knesset Reading

The Knesset voted Monday night, March 28, to advance the controversial and undemocratic and law enabling MKs to suspend their colleagues; the first reading of the bill passed by a vote of 59 to 52. The proposed legislation would allow 90 MKs to vote to suspend lawmakers if they “negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incite racism, or express support for a terror group or state in its war against Israel.” Speaking before the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who stands behind the proposed law, said it “would help in Israel’s fight against terror.” Anticipating rebellion by a number of coalition MKs, Netanyahu told the weekly Likud meeting: “I expect all those who say they are in favor of the bill to vote in its support and to not give any advantage or profit to those who support terror.”

Joint List leader, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), during the Knesset session on Monday

Joint List leader, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), during the Knesset session on Monday (Photo: Al Ittihad)

The coalition managed to secure the approval of the bill in its first reading despite two Likud members refusing to support the legislation, due to the abstention from the vote by the MKs from the far-right opposition Yisrael Beytenu party. The bill must still pass two more Knesset readings.

The vote was preceded by a flurry of speeches by MKs calling to support or oppose the measure, as well as discussions by some MKs about a soldier charged with murder over the shooting death of a wounded Palestinian assailant in Hebron last week.

The controversial measure has been vociferously opposed by some, including President Reuven Rivlin, who warned that the power to punish lawmakers should not be in the hands of fellow Knesset members. During the debate on the bill, Joint List MKs, who saw themselves as its primary target, used their speeches to declare loyalty to democracy and human rights. “I will do all I can to uproot phenomena of fascism and racism and exclusion. I will continue to fight against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people and for peace, and will continue to act for social justice and equality,” each of the Joint List MKs said in turn.

During the debate, former Shin Bet chief, MK Avi Dichter (Likud), accused the Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) of doing nothing to stop terror against Israelis. “The day will come,” said Dichter, “when you will be greeted at the gates of heaven by Sheikh Yassin and Rantisi. You have passed their test for acceptance. With them, you are considered a righteous man, and by you they are deemed righteous.” Dichter wrote on his Facebook page that he personally was “proud to have had the privilege” of helping to send Yassin and Rantisi “deep into the earth” within a month of each other.

Odeh later took the podium and accused Dichter of “cheap and lowly incitement” to get headlines. Odeh responded by accusing Dichter of pandering to the cameras. “It seems that Dichter has been under great pressure and a bit desperate to grab some headlines, and therefore, he chose to use such low and cheap incitement,” Odeh said. “We shall continue to advance a politics of teamwork, which looks after the good of all citizens, in the face of the current government’s politics of hate and malice,” he added.

Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) also spoke out against the bill. “This is a dark moment in the history of the Knesset and of the Legislative Committee. The Prime Minister wants Arab citizens of Israel not to vote so as to ensure a majority to continue his rule. Netanyahu’s message to the Arab citizens of this country is: ‘If your MKs annoy the Jews, we’ll take away their membership in the Knesset. You don’t have any chance of influencing what goes on here.’”