Backing down from threats to completely boycott the United Arab List, coalition leaders announced Monday that MKs from the Likud and other coalition parties would walk out when MKs from the Arab party got up to speak, as the Knesset’s winter session was set to begin Monday afternoon. Like all MKs, the UAL representatives will have a chance to speak as the Knesset session gets underway. When they do, said coalition chairman MK David Bitan, there will be a mass walkout of coalition MKs, and anyone else who cares to join them.
The boycott was announced last month, after UAL MKs boycotted the funeral of former president Shimon Peres. Several ministers, including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, demanded that UAL be banned from the Knesset altogether, or that the Arab MKs at least be shunned and boycotted. Liberman has asked MK Oded Forer of his party to sign up the Zionist Camp and Yesh Atid for this effort, since as Zionist parties they should make clear to the Arab MKs that they must have respect for Israeli institutions and leaders.
Another reason for the boycott is a visit that UAL chairman Ayman Odeh recently paid to arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti. The meeting was denounced by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who said that the meeting was an example of “moral degeneracy.”
The limited boycott announced Monday by Bitan – in which MKs will walk out on UAL speakers for the balance of the week – is less than had been anticipated, sources in the coalition told Israel Radio.
In response, Odeh said that the effort to boycott the party was itself an example of “moral degeneracy. Liberman, whose political legacy is built on hatred and division, wants to give a lesson in building bridges,” he said. “As is well known, the plans of Liberman to harm the rights of Arabs tend to blow up in his face and actually end up strengthening us.”