Coalition chairman seeks bill to bar Israelis from speaking to Security Council
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Coalition chairman seeks bill to bar Israelis from speaking to Security Council

David Bitan plans legislation to revoke citizenship of anyone who calls for action against Israel at sanction-wielding world bodies — and is criticized on both left and right

Knesset House Committee Chairman David Bitan speaks at a committee meeting October 26, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Knesset House Committee Chairman David Bitan speaks at a committee meeting October 26, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Coalition Chairman David Bitan (Likud) is planning to introduce a bill that would forbid Israeli citizens from calling for international action against Israel at international bodies, Channel 2 News reported Saturday.

Bitan on Friday called for stripping B’Tselem Director Hagai El-Ad of his citizenship for appearing before the UN Security Council last week and calling for action against Israel over West Bank settlements. But after being advised by legal experts that such a move would not be legally possible, the Likud MK was said to be eyeing a legislative path.

Bitan’s bill would bar Israelis from calling for action against the Jewish state before international bodies that could potentially impose sanctions, such as the Security Council. Transgressors would lose their citizenship.

The MK believes the bill does not hurt freedom of expression, Channel 2 reported, as Israelis would still be able to speak at other forums and express their positions to the world.

Bitan’s proposal was met with derision on the left on Saturday, with several lawmakers warning that such proposals could do more to isolate Israel than any speech by a watchdog group.

Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union said that “”Even if they don’t evolve into legislation, such toxic talk and ideas are destructive to Israel from within and without…the damage these initiatives cause to Israel’s image abroad is worse than any caused by [B’Tselem].”

Leader of the opposition MK Isaac Herzog seen with MK Tzipi Livni at a Zionist Union faction meeting in the Knesset, February 22, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Leader of the opposition MK Isaac Herzog seen with MK Tzipi Livni at a Zionist Union faction meeting in the Knesset, February 22, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Opposition head Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) vowed to “fiercely” battle such a bill if it were ever brought before the Knesset.

MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) said the government was “causing unprecedented international damage to the country, and could yet bring about the sanctioning of Israel.” She added that by floating such propositions, members of the government “in their great ignorance and short-sightedness give weapons to Israel’s enemies.”

El-Ad also received some unexpected support on Saturday from two Knesset members who are resolutely on the right of the political spectrum.

Likud MK Yehuda Glick, known for his advocacy of Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount, tweeted: “Stripping the citizenship from B’Tselem’s director? Why don’t we just hang him in the city square? Far simpler and more efficient! Hello? Have we gone mad? Calm down friends! There are limits.”

Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich tweeted that “There will be no revocation of citizenship for Hagai El-Ad!”

Smotrich wrote that El-Ad “crossed a red line, even for a democracy, but there’s serious distance between that and revoking citizenship. Balance is the key.”

Bitan had told Channel 2 Friday that the B’Tselem chief’s actions constituted a “borderline flagrant breach of trust by an Israeli citizen against the state, and therefore it’s appropriate for him to find other citizenship.”

El-Ad sparked fury in Israel last week when he spoke at the UN Security Council and denounced the “invisible, bureaucratic daily violence” that dominates Palestinian life “from cradle to grave,” including Israeli control over entrance and exit from the territories, and farming rights.

The NGO director’s remarks drew fierce denunciations from Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vowed he would bar national service volunteers from working with the left-wing human rights organization.

B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad. (Screen capture: YouTube)
B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The American and Israeli ambassadors to the United Nations publicly disagreed at a subsequent Security Council meeting Wednesday, after Israel’s Danny Danon demanded the United Nations end its support for B’Tselem, arguing that it “directly interfered” in Israeli democracy.

B’Tselem responded to Bitan’s comments in a statement on Friday, saying that “these threats won’t deter us and hundreds of thousands of Israelis who oppose the occupation.

“For nearly 50 years Palestinians don’t have citizenship or rights. Now the coalition chairman, the messenger of the prime minister, wants to cancel the citizenship of those who spoke out against this reality,” the organization said.

The US lent its support to B’Tselem on Monday, expressing concern about the threats against the organization, while the European Union delegation to Israel tweeted its support for “B’Tselem to maintain human rights of vulnerable Palestinian communities.”

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