Knesset legal advisers have thrown a potential wrench into the works of a controversial bill advanced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow Knesset members to suspend one another, Channel 2 news reported Monday.
A document from the advisers, prepared for the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in advance of its scheduled debate on the bill on Tuesday, warned that such legislation could do “real harm to the ability of an MK to function,” possibly on repeated occasions, and was likely to cause “a nuisance, investment of resources and the interruption of parliamentary activity.”
Netanyahu initiated the bill, which would see a lawmaker suspended if 90 colleagues voted in favor, earlier this month after three Arab MKs from the Balad party, part of the Arab-dominated Joint List, met with families of terrorists who were killed while attacking Israelis.
Lawmakers could be called upon to account for one-off acts of “insufficient gravity,” rather than behavior that was repeated over time, the advisers noted. The advisers said there was “an inherent difficulty in managing a quasi-judicial procedure in the Knesset, examining the evidence with precision, and striking a delicate balance.”
In the Basic Law: The Knesset, clause 7A lists three reasons for which a candidate could be banned from seeking election: negating the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; inciting to racism; and supporting armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.
These three reasons have been put forward for inclusion in the proposed suspension legislation too.
The advisers have no problem with the second and third reasons, but said the first was “particularly weak” in the context of the new bill, which effectively allows MKs to oust a fellow lawmaker.
A week ago, heads of the coalition parties unanimously approved the new legislation. Analysts have said that even if it passes into law, it will prove unimplementable in the current parliament, in which Netanyahu’s coalition numbers just 61 out of 120 MKs.
Zionist Union, Yesh Atid and the Joint (Arab) List opposition parties have come out against the law, as have some members of the coalition.
Bezalel Smotrich, a hawkish member of the right-wing Jewish Home party, said last week that while a “root canal” treatment was required in dealings with Israel’s Arabs, the proposed legislation was “bad.”
“Tomorrow morning, someone might decide that Michal Rozin [of the left-wing Meretz party] is too extreme and that she has no place in the Knesset; then someone might decide that I am too extreme and that I have no place in the Knesset,” he told Army Radio.
Dov Khenin, a far-left Jewish lawmaker from the Joint List, said in a statement that the move was part of a “comprehensive attack on democracy” and an attempt to use the meeting of MKs with the Palestinian families as “an excuse to continue a campaign of labeling Israeli Arabs as internal enemies.”
Last week, the Knesset Ethics Committee suspended Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas for four months and Jamal Zahalka for two months over their meeting with terrorists’ families.