Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday accused the Israeli-Arab Balad party of assisting Hamas, a day after one of its members said the IDF was as bad as the Islamic State terror group.
The comment, from MK Hanin Zoabi, sparked a flurry of criticism Sunday including from some on Israel’s left, who said the outspoken lawmaker had gone too far.
Liberman joined the fray Monday, pledging to advance legislation to disqualify the party from running in future elections.
“The Balad party has become a wing of Hamas, and it helps it while using the Knesset to advance terror, and taking advantage of the MKs’ parliamentary immunity,” the foreign minister said in a statement.
Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party had successfully passed a law in the past to bar the party from the Knesset, but the decision was overturned by the High Court, Liberman said.
“We will go back and renew the petition to disqualify the party of terrorists from running for Knesset, since today no one can ignore their outspoken and defiant moves against the State of Israel which are explicitly against the law,” he wrote in a statement.
Yisrael Beytenu MK Robert Ilatov said late Sunday night that he was drafting legislation to strip Zoabi of her Israeli citizenship for her remarks.
“‘Knesset member Zoabi continues to support the enemies of the state of Israel and to compare IDF soldiers to the worst of them, and yet on the first of the month, she still receives a salary from Israel’s foundational body.
“But no one is immune — a bill we are advancing in the faction will lead to the revoking of her citizenship, and until that passes I will do everything in my power [to ensure that] the traitor will soon have to seek other employment.”
In condemning the party’s actions, Liberman also mentioned former Balad party head and suspected Hezbollah spy Azmi Bishara, and Zoabi’s trip to Qatar over the summer.
Zoabi compared Israel Defense Forces soldiers to Islamic State terrorists on Sunday, saying that a pilot who bombs Palestinians “is no less a terrorist than someone who takes a knife and cuts off someone’s head.”
“They kill one by one with their knife, and in the IDF they kill dozens of Palestinians with one button,” the Balad party MK told Channel 2. “Though the soldier remains in the plane when he bombs, and though he doesn’t see his victim… he is no less a terrorist than someone who takes a knife and cuts off a head. And someone who takes pictures with bodies, laughs with bodies of Palestinians — I don’t think he is any less of a terrorist than someone who cuts off a head. They’re killing more than the knife.
“M16s, tanks, and aerial bombings that kill dozens and hundreds, are more terrorists than the knife… They take pictures here and take pictures there, here they take pictures with the knife and there they take pictures with bodies, with their bodies, and are also laughing,” she said.
Zoabi also defended the soccer team Bnei Sakhnin for honoring Bishara.
“We want support from the entire Arab world, we are part of the Arab world. The support is for sports, for the youth, recreation spots,” she said. “Sports keeps youths away from violence, from going out to the streets and getting into all sorts of antisocial phenomena like drugs and violence.
“We will visit Azmi Bishara, he will remain our friend, we have friendly connections and he will remain our friend, he is an Arab intellectual,” she said.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz blasted Zoabi on his Facebook page Sunday. “This is a clear act of libel, treason, and sedition,” he said. “During the next cabinet meeting, I will demand that we instruct the legal system to find a legal way to remove her from the Knesset and immediately expel her from the country. There is a limit to what a sovereign state can and should absorb from a certified traitor.”
Likud MK Miri Regev said Zoabi was “a dangerous enemy for Israel, and her place is in prison and not in the Knesset. With her words of incitement, she is as dangerous as a terrorist.”
Her fellow Likud MK Danny Danon agreed that Zoabi should be sent to prison: “Her words long ago crossed the bounds of morality and justice, adding another layer to the petition I submitted to the Supreme Court, asking that she be prosecuted and removed from the Knesset.”
Aliza Lavie, the Yesh Atid parliamentarian who heads the Committee on the Advancement of Women, called Zoabi’s interview the latest “in a series of racist, anti-Semitic statements and actions.”
MKs further to the left weren’t much gentler on Zoabi. “The time has come for her to simply shut up a little,” Labor Party MK Itzik Shmuli wrote on his Facebook page.
In August, Zoabi petitioned the High Court of Justice against a Knesset Ethics Committee decision to ban her for six months from parliament debates for declaring that the Palestinian kidnappers of three Israeli teenagers were not terrorists.
Following the abduction of Naftali Fraenkel, 16; Gil-ad Shaar, 16; and Eyal Yifrach, 19, on June 12, suspicions quickly pointed toward Hamas operatives as being behind the attack. At the time, Zoabi said that the kidnappers “are not terrorists.”
In August, police recommended that Zoabi be put on trial for incitement, threats and maligning a civil servant after a month earlier two policemen, themselves Arabs, complained that during hearings for the extension of arrest for Israeli Arabs who demonstrated against Operation Protective Edge, she insulted them with a spiteful outburst.
Zoabi also angered right-wing lawmakers who said articles she published during Operation Protective Edge constituted advice to Hamas on how to defeat Israel.