Deputy Knesset Speaker Ahmad Tibi of the opposition Joint (Arab) List party ordered a government minister be expelled from the plenum Wednesday after the minister accused Arab parliamentarians — and Tibi in particular — of bearing responsibility for the ongoing wave of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and security forces.
Tibi, who was chairing a debate on a cabinet decision to enforce closures and curfews on some East Jerusalem neighborhoods, ordered ushers to escort Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) from the podium and out of the hall, bringing to an end a heated exchange of words between the two lawmakers.
The move to order a minister removed from the Knesset plenum during a debate was unprecedented, according to Channel 2 news.
When Elkin took to the podium to respond on behalf of the government during the debate, he directed comments at Tibi, who was filling in for Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein.
“It is important to understand why the wave of terror is happening,” Elkin said and charged that Tibi “and people like you” are “spreading lies in the full knowledge of what Israel is doing on the Temple Mount.”
The current wave of violence was fueled by rumors that Israel was plotting to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and take over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the holiest site to Jews and the third holiest one to Muslims. Israel has repeatedly denied any plans to change the status quo at the contest site.
“You and your comrades are responsible for the blood spilled in the recent events, both of Jews and Arabs,” Elkin shouted at Tibi, who was sitting a few meters away. “You, personally, should not sleep at night and should think about everyone who has been killed in the recent weeks and what part you have played in what happened.”
“You are inciting against me irresponsible incitement, I request that the minister be removed from the podium,” Tibi fumed. “What is going on here is unprecedented, I never called for violence. You have crossed a red line.”
Elkin protested that Tibi did not have the right to remove him.
After Elkin was taken from the hall, MK Yinon Magal of the Jewish Home party blasted Tibi for using his powers as speaker to silence the accusations against him.
“We had an opportunity to see what will happen if the Arabs became the sovereigns, there is no regulation, there are no rules,” Magal said. “I am now the sovereign and you will get out of here’, that is what we heard now and this is an example of what will happen here if the Arabs are the sovereigns, God forbid.”
Israel has adamantly denied allegations it plans to change the status quo between Muslim worshipers and Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, and has accused the Palestinians of incitement. Jews can currently visit the religious holy site but are not allowed to pray there.
The past few weeks have seen almost daily shooting and stabbing attacks by Palestinian and Israeli-Arab terrorists against Israeli security forces and civilians across Israel and in the West Bank.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.