Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein are jointly lodging a complaint to the Knesset’s Ethics Committee against three Arab MKs for meeting with relatives of Palestinian terrorists who carried out attacks against Israelis in recent months.
The unprecedented complaint protests the move by Joint (Arab) List MKs Hanin Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka and Basel Ghattas, all members of the Balad faction, saying it constituted incitement and “encouragement to murder.”
“It is inconceivable that at a time when innocent citizens are being slaughtered on the streets of Israel, these MKs go to console the families of the murderers and with unbelievable insolence dare to bring the families’ demands to the government,” Edelstein said Thursday, soon after news of the meeting was reported. “I see this as a severe injury to the Israeli legislature and the State of Israel and hope that these actions will finally be noted by the judges of the High Court of Justice the next time they discuss an appeal against disqualifying unworthy candidates from running for office as lawmakers.”
The Knesset’s Ethics Committee is not bound to discuss a complaint filed by any MK if the complainant chooses to make it public, as Netanyahu and Edelstein have.
Earlier on Thursday, Netanyahu said the Arab MKs who met with relatives of Palestinian terrorists were “not worthy to serve” in the Israeli parliament.
“Members of Knesset who go to comfort the families of terrorists who murdered Israelis do not deserve to be in the Israeli Knesset. I have asked the Speaker of the Knesset to examine what steps can be taken against them,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
The three Joint List lawmakers met the relatives of the terrorists Tuesday, a day before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hosted them in his Ramallah office.
A Palestinian organization representing families of “shahids” [martyrs] invited all lawmakers from the Joint List, a list comprising all Arab parties in the Knesset, to meet in Jerusalem. Three MKs from Balad, one of the parties comprising the list, attended.
The MKs met with the father of Baha Alian, a Palestinian who was part of a two-man team that killed three Israelis (Hayim Haviv, Alon Govberg and Richard Lakin) in Jerusalem in October, and with relatives of other terrorists.
The relatives asked the MKs to help them pressure the government to release the terrorists’ bodies for burial. The request by the families was transferred to the Public Security Ministry, a Balad party spokeswoman said.
Some Israeli reports said that the meeting began with a moment of silence for the “martyrs.”
The meeting was roundly condemned by Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely lashed out saying “the Arab MKs are not missing an opportunity to support terrorism. They harm first and foremost their own public, they represent nothing and promote nothing except supporting terrorism and actively working against the State of Israel. The Arab public is the first that should come out against its representatives who act as agents of terrorism and not as its representatives in the Knesset.”
Minister of Immigrant Absorption Ze’ev Elkin said that he “always claimed that Balad MKs were working for the benefit of terrorist elements and against the State of Israel and their place is outside the Israeli Knesset.”
“The Central Election Committee time and again disqualified them from running for office and only by the intervention of the High Court of Justice do they today put to shame the title ‘member of Knesset.’ This disgrace must end!” he said.
Education Minister and Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett called on Israel’s Arab citizens to condemn the MKs’ act. “The visit by MKs with families of murderers is a black stain that will be written down in Israeli history,” he said.
“I call on the Arab public: You are much better than them. Condemn them, repudiate them. There will not be unity among us of representatives of our public meet those who murder us,” he said.
Zionist Union, the largest party in the opposition, criticized the meeting and said in a statement that the “visit by Balad MKs with families of terrorists encourages more terrorism and killing of innocents.”
One of the party’s MKs, Itzik Shmuli, tweeted that the meeting was “sickening, sickening, sickening. Even if you take into account Balad’s extremist views, this is a condemnable move that gives backing to terrorism.”
Head of Yesh Atid Yair Lapid called the meeting “a show of hatred and subversion against the State of Israel, there’s support and encouragement to murdering innocents here. We cannot remain quiet over such disgraceful actions. We need to repudiate the MKs who met the families of these despicable terrorists. MKs from Balad harm and besmirch a whole sector [in Israeli society] in an unprecedented manner.”
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said the Joint List MKs’ meeting with the terrorists’ families was proof that they were “representatives of terror organizations inside the Knesset.”
“The meeting between Balad MKs and the families of terrorists who murdered Jews is only a reminder for those who still need it, in the government and law enforcement system, that these terrorists should be expelled from the Israeli Knesset as soon as possible and probably from the State of Israel as well,” Liberman said.
Meanwhile, American Jewish newspaper the Forward reported in December that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked had met with the mother of an American-Israeli suspect being held in connection with the deadly arson attack in Duma in July, that killed three members of a Palestinian family, including an 18-month-old baby.