Defense minister: Arab MKs are ‘war criminals,’ should ‘go back to Gaza’
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Defense minister: Arab MKs are ‘war criminals,’ should ‘go back to Gaza’

‘You’re sitting here by mistake,’ Liberman tells Arab lawmakers in parliament, accuses them of attempting to ‘destroy us from the inside’

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman (R) and MK Robert Ilatov (L) attend a party faction meeting at the Knesset on April 30, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman (R) and MK Robert Ilatov (L) attend a party faction meeting at the Knesset on April 30, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday launched a fiery tirade against Arab Israeli lawmakers, branding them “war criminals” and saying they were sitting in Israel’s parliament “by mistake” and will soon “go back to Gaza, with Hamas, or Ramallah.”

The comments came a day after the defense minister urged a boycott of Arab Israeli businesses in an area that saw riots over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Addressing the Knesset plenum, Liberman rattled off a list of Arab lawmakers who have been accused or convicted of crimes against Israel, including Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel after allegations of handing over information to the Hezbollah terrorist group, and Basel Ghattas, who is serving time for smuggling cellphones to Palestinian terror prisoners.

The Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh skipped former president Shimon Peres’s funeral, calling him a “murderer,” continued Liberman, but went to Ramallah that week for an event commemorating former Fatah leader Yasser Arafat, considered a terrorist by Israel.

The Joint List lawmakers are “war criminals,” charged Liberman.

“You’re sitting here by mistake,” he told the Arab MKs in the plenum, adding that they’ll inevitably “go back to Gaza, with Hamas, or Ramallah.”

He accused the MKs of “taking advantage” of Israel’s civil liberties to “destroy us from the inside.”

The day will soon come, he added, when “you won’t be here.”

The defense minister, who has long advocated relinquishing some Arab Israeli cities to Palestinian control as part of a future peace deal, drew criticism from his fellow ministers for his remarks on Sunday.

He had called on Israelis to boycott Wadi Ara-area businesses after local residents clashed with police on Saturday and threw rocks at passing vehicles.

Responding to the criticism, Liberman doubled down on his boycott call.

“Without loyalty, there can be no citizenship!” he tweeted. “Those who demonstrate in the State of Israel with the flags of Hezbollah, Hamas and the PLO are not part of the State of Israel. They act to harm us and destroy us from the inside. Thus, I call on all Israel’s citizens to institute an economic boycott of Wadi Ara — don’t shop, don’t eat in restaurants, and don’t accept services from them.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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