Jerusalem: Now, MPs can expel colleagues for incitement, racism or support for armed struggle against the state that critics say is aimed mainly at Arab legislators, according to a new legislation passed by Israel’s parliament.
The law was passed in the early hours of Wednesday in a noisy session of the Knesset. Opposition Israeli-Arab MPs said immediately they would appeal against the legislation at the country’s supreme court.
The passage of the law brings an end to a long running saga over attempts by Israel’s rightwing to bring in the legislation, with the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, saying the law ended “the absurd situation” whereby someone who “supports terror against the state of Israel and its citizens” could serve as a member of parliament.
Israel’s opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, denounced the law, saying on Twitter that it represented a “dark mark on Israel’s face. The hate-filled government is busy widening the rift that threatens Israel more than any outside enemy”.
Pressure to pass the law had been mounting following anger when three MPs – Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas – met the families of several Palestinians killed during a recent surge in street attacks on Israelis. The MPs said they were attending a meeting about the repatriation of the Palestinians’ bodies to their families.
“This is one of the most serious legislative proposals in recent years and it harms the very building blocks of democracy – the right to freedom of expression, the right to vote and to be elected, and the right to representation,” said Debbie Gilad-Hayo of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel.
“Arab (lawmakers) whose actions and remarks do not find favour with the political majority will be the first people harmed by the bill – however, it is a slippery slope and the bill has potential to affect all,” she said in a statement.
But the law could prove to be more symbolic than practical, as it requires at least 90 of the house’s 120 members to vote in favour of any impeachment, a majority that may be hard to achieve in the fractious Knesset.