Ministers rebuked for calling Arab MKs ‘traitors,’ ‘terrorists’
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Ministers rebuked for calling Arab MKs ‘traitors,’ ‘terrorists’

Knesset Ethics Committee also finds Joint List lawmakers breached protocol by waving banners during Pence’s plenum speech

The Knesset Ethics Committee on Monday reprimanded two cabinet ministers for branding lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List “terrorists” and “traitors.” It also acknowledged that the Arab MKs breached protocol when they disrupted US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset on January 22.

In its decision, the committee warned Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Ze’ev Elkin, minister of Jerusalem affairs and environmental protection, that they would face sanctions if they repeated their language, which was “not befitting political discourse.”

The committee also ruled that the actions of the Joint List MKs contravened parliamentary rules and that the Knesset ushers acted without authority in removing them from the plenum in the wake of their action.

The Joint List MKs were thrown out of the Knesset plenum by parliamentary ushers after they brandished signs reading “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine,” as Pence began to address the Knesset.

MKs from the Joint (Arab) List hold up signs reading ‘Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine’ during US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 22, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ariel Schalit)

The remaining MKs in the plenum applauded loudly in an effort to drown out the shouts from the party’s 13 lawmakers, in a scene that lasted less than a minute but saw angry pushing and shoving.

As the ushers finished clearing the MKs from the plenum, Pence continued his speech, saying he was “humbled to speak before such a vibrant democracy.”

Liberman was among the first lawmakers to publicly condemn the outburst, tweeting that the Joint List MKs “proved once again that they are representatives of terrorist organizations in the Knesset.

US Vice President Pence speaks in the Knesset on January 22, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ariel Schalit)

“Their shameful behavior exposed to everyone their disloyalty to the state and its symbols.

“Only when Israeli Arabs allow other voices to represent them will be a chance for true peace,” Liberman concluded.

After the incident Elkin tweeted that “the Joint List MKs are traitors.”

Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin gives a statement to the media at the Knesset on December 19, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He wrote that when the Arab lawmakers “say that the moment the US stands with Israel rather than the Palestinian Authority it becomes an enemy, they are favoring the PA’s interest over the Israeli interest and that is treason.”

Several MKs and members of the public called on the Ethics Committee to investigate the actions of the Arab lawmakers. In response the Joint List called on the committee to rebuke the ushers for forcibly confiscating the signs and destroying them, and for using force to remove the MKs, who were already walking out. It also called for an investigation of the coalition MKs who called them “traitors.”

The Ethics Committee said Monday that “without doubt waving signs is a ‘serious disturbance'” and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein would have been within his rights to order the MKs removed from the plenum. However, the committee ruled that the ushers lacked authority to remove the signs or the MKs without explicit instruction from the speaker.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on December 31, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90

Given that the Joint List MKs were expelled from the plenum, including those members who did not breach protocol, the committee felt that no further action was necessary.

However, the committee wrote, “Regarding the expressions of ministers Elkin and Liberman, the Ethics Committee finds that these were inappropriate outbursts that have no place in political discourse. The committee wishes to warn that it there is any repetition of such outbursts the committee will consider sanctions against them.”

The protest of the Joint List MKs was in response to US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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