The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee gave its approval on Sunday to the coalition bill to allow expulsion of MKs by a two-thirds majority of the 120 members of the Knesset — but not before a committee session that saw several MKs thrown out for disorderly conduct.
The proposal will now be forwarded to the Knesset plenum, where tempers are expected to flare again before a final vote is taken in the coming weeks. If enacted, it would make incitement to violence or racism, support for armed conflict against Israel or negating Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, all grounds for expelling a member from the Knesset for as long as the majority decides, up to the expiration of his term.
Joint List head Ayman Odeh threatened to resign in the event that any of his party members are removed through such a law, which he denounced as undemocratic.
“We were chosen by our people and not by the Right. We were not chosen by Knesset members and we don’t want or intend to please them. So, should the Balad members be ejected, I would consider resigning from the Knesset.” The bill was drafted in response to a sympathy visit paid recently by three Balad MKs (part of the Joint List) to the families of Palestinian terrorists killed in lethal attacks on Israelis.
Odeh connected the bill to a campaign which he alleged aims to disenfranchise the Arab Israeli population. “Despite the delegitimization campaign against us and raising the election threshold, we decided to remain part of the politics in Israel and they still continue to persecute us.
“Suddenly they’re talking about Balad and not about the Joint List. After they banned the northern branch of the Islamic Movement [for subversive activities and incitement], now they’re beginning to demonize Balad.”
Odeh’s threatened resignation did not seem to deter supporters of the Exclusion Bill. The response from MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beitenu) was: “Good, no one wants you here.”
“Speak for yourself,” MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) snapped.
United Torah Judaism MK Uri Maklev said he was obliged to vote with the coalition, of which UTJ is a part. But, he warned that “today it’s terror, tomorrow the law will be turned against anyone who disagrees with the majority.”
In reality, “the Likud doesn’t want to suspend anybody from the Knesset, it only wants to show that it’s fighting terrorism. Zoabi [one of the Balad MKs who visited the terrorists’ families] is an electoral asset for the Likud,” Maklev charged. He predicted that the bill would have to undergo major changes, but it will not pass the plenum in its present form.
MK Revital Swid (Zionist Camp) added that “the hatred of Arabs blinds the eyes of MKs until they legislate a law that no attorney general supports. The blindness is making the coalition indifferent and numb in the face of a serious attack on democracy. We cannot let this happen.”
Swid warned committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) who authored the bill: “There will be a day when it is used against you. One day there will be a majority that decides whoever does not denounce the hilltop youth and supports the Kingdom of Israel undermines the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. What will you do then?”
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has raised no legal objection to the bill. However, he did express reservations, telling the committee that “the legislation requires much care in light of the inherent issues it raises … [it would] “authorize a political majority to end the tenure of a legally-elected MK” and “defeat the will of the voters.”