The Knesset Ethics Committee on Monday reprimanded Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh for branding Likud MK and former Shin Bet security agency head Avi Dichter a “murderer,” but stopped short of leveling any penalty on the lawmaker.
Odeh had alleged last month that Dichter ordered the killings of PLO chief Yasser Arafat and two Hamas cofounders while director of the internal security agency.
Several Knesset members had lodged an ethics complaint against Odeh, including Dichter.
The committee concluded that the accusation was a “personal” and “serious” attack on Dichter. “It is not legitimate that he or any other Knesset member call a man who worked for the state to protect its citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, ‘a murderer,'” the decision said.
Odeh later defended his remarks, arguing that it was well within the confines of free speech. Testifying before the committee, he refused to backtrack or apologize to Dichter.
The committee ruled that since this was Odeh’s first offense, they would let him off with a censure but no further penalties.
The committee also included a general warning that lawmakers who call others “murderers,” “terrorists,” or “Nazis” would be in violation of the Knesset’s ethical guidelines.
Dichter responded to the decision angrily, charging that the committee lacks “public courage.” Odeh “slandered the state with false accusations,” said Dichter. The Likud MK maintained the ruling was “unacceptable” and said he would not let it stand.
Odeh’s comment came in the context of a stormy Knesset debate surrounding a law that would allow MKs to vote to suspend fellow lawmakers. Interviewed on Channel 2, Odeh said Dichter was allowed to remain as a lawmaker despite having ordered the murder of Palestinian leaders.
“There are Shin Bet heads who gave orders to murder the leaders of the Palestinian people — people who are in the coalition…. For example [Avi] Dichter sent people who murdered Arafat, and [Hamas cofounders] Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and Rantisi, and he is in the Knesset. People who sent people to murder people are members of Knesset,” he said.
Various Palestinian leaders, and Arafat’s widow, Suha, have claimed since the PLO chief’s death that Israel assassinated him, an accusation Israel has always denied.
Arafat died in Percy military hospital near Paris at the age of 75 in November 2004, after complaining of stomach pains while at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. French investigators last April announced they had not found evidence he had been poisoned, and a French prosecutor subsequently closed the case.
Israel killed Hamas leaders Yassin and Abdel Aziz Ali Abdul Majid al-Rantisi in Gaza air raids in 2004.
Dichter (Likud) later hit back at the accusations. Writing on his Facebook page, Dichter said he was “proud to have had the privilege” of sending Yassin and Rantisi “deep into the earth,” one within a month of the other, in early 2004.