Netanyahu lends support to ‘Hanin Zoabi bill’

Proposal would allow expulsion from Knesset of MKs who publicly announce support for war against Israel

Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi (Balad) in the Knesset. (photo credit: Flash90)
Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi (Balad) in the Knesset. (photo credit: Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday endorsed a bill that would empower the Knesset to expel lawmakers who voice support for armed combat against the State of Israel.

The bill, an amendment to the constitutional Basic Law: The Knesset, is seen as a response to Balad MK Hanin Zoabi, who expressed support for Hamas during the summer’s Gaza war and insisted that the Hamas-affiliated killers of three Israeli teenagers in June were not terrorists. Zoabi later appeared to retract the latter comments, saying that while the kidnapping of the teens did not constitute terrorism, their killing did.

According to Haaretz, the bill, proposed by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu), has the support of 27 additional lawmakers, including MKs David Tzur from Hatnua and Rina Frenkel from Yesh Atid, as well as ultra-Orthodox, Likud and Jewish Home MKs.

The bill allows the expulsion of a Knesset member if they express support for a terror group or state in its war against Israel. In order to expel an MK, an absolute majority of the Knesset, or 61 members, would have to vote in favor.

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, the cabinet committee that votes on government support for bills in the Knesset, refused to vote on supporting the bill on the grounds that it was inappropriate for the executive branch of the government to attempt to influence changes to the functioning of the legislative branch.

In a meeting Monday of the Likud Knesset faction, Netanyahu said he supported the bill, but demanded changes to make it harder to carry out the expulsion – including increasing the number of votes required from a regular majority in the plenum to an absolute majority of 61.

According to the text of the bill, “an MK who in a time of war or military action against an enemy state or terror organization offers public support for military struggle against the State of Israel, their term in the Knesset shall be terminated on the day the Knesset decides by a majority of its members and at the recommendation of the Knesset House Committee that the published comments constitute the aforementioned expressions of support.”

In keeping with the accepted legislative process, the bill will come up for a preliminary vote in the plenum in the coming days, and negotiations over amendments to the bill will begin only after it passes the initial vote.

In the explanatory preface to the bill, its proponents write that “every democracy must place red lines” when it comes to “support for the enemy in a time of war.” Those red lines include “allowing parliamentary representation only when there is agreement on minimal rules of the game, including recognition and loyalty to the very state in whose Knesset the member is serving.”

The Basic Law: The Knesset already forbids parties that explicitly support armed war against Israel from running for Knesset. The proposed amendment would add the ability to expel individual MKs who express such views after their election to parliament.

In a response to the bill, Zoabi told Haaretz: “No parliament that expels its members has a right to speak in the name of democracy. This is a hostile act against my constituency and against every democrat in the country. This is an insane bill that will allow coalition members of Knesset to strip the minority of parliamentary representation.”

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