Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out Monday at Arab MKs who condemned Gulf Arab states for blacklisting the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah as a terror group.
“Countries from the Arab world decided to recognize Hezbollah as a terror group. This is an important development. Even amazing,” Netanyahu said in the Knesset on Monday evening.
“But what’s no less amazing is that two parties here in the Knesset condemned the decision. Will you continue to condemn them when Hezbollah shoots missiles at your villages? Have you gone mad?” the prime minister said, adding immediately: “Excuse the expression.”
Hezbollah is openly committed to destroying Israel, and has an estimated 100,000-plus rockets and missiles aimed at the Jewish state.
Last month, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to bomb the Haifa ammonia storage facility, bragging that a missile strike there would have an impact similar to a nuclear attack.
Hadash and Balad, two of the four parties that make up the mostly Arab Joint List in the Knesset, published condemnations Monday of Sunni Arab states that last week designated Shiite Hezbollah a terror organization. Both parties argued that the move serves Israel.
The blacklisting of Hezbollah, announced last Wednesday by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, came amid the continued deterioration of relations between Hezbollah’s Shiite backer Iran and Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia. Gulf monarchies had already sanctioned Hezbollah in 2013 in reprisal for its armed intervention in Syria in support of embattled President Bashar Assad.
Hadash, which is helmed by Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh, denounced the blacklisting, which it said came “in the service of occupation and the continued occupation of Arab land.” Hadash backs the continued rule of Assad in Syria.
Balad followed Hadash’s lead Monday, posting a condemnation of the Gulf Cooperation Council on its website on Monday afternoon. “Even if there is criticism of its activities, there is no justification to condemn the organization,” Balad said of Hezbollah.
Netanyahu’s criticism followed that of other lawmakers.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, a senior member of the ruling Likud party, called Odeh and Balad head MK Jamal Zahalka “traitors,” saying it was “unbelievable that members of Knesset seek to sabotage Israel’s interests.
“Go join [fugitive former Balad leader] Azmi Bishara in Qatar, or in Syria — that’s where traitors belong,” Katz was quoted as saying in a statement released from his office.
He said he appealed to the Knesset Ethics Committee to examine the statements and take disciplinary steps against the lawmakers.
Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who leads the Yisrael Beytenu party, slammed Arab lawmakers as “representatives of the worst extremists in the whole Arab world.”
Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri called the statements “unfortunate.” In an interview with Channel 2, he said they reflected a deep divide among Israel’s Arabs over the conflict in Syria, with secularists backing Assad’s continued rule and religious Muslims opposing the Assad regime.
Balad MKs recently made headlines for visiting the families of Palestinian terrorists. The lawmakers maintained they were simply helping the families retrieve the attackers’ bodies from Israel for burial, but a video of the three MKs ostensibly observing a moment of silence sparked widespread Israeli outrage, and prompted the coalition to draft a controversial bill to allow lawmakers to suspend their colleagues.
Former MK Bishara led Balad until he fled Israel in 2007 amid suspicions that he provided information to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Bishara has denied the allegations, and says he will not return to Israel as he does not believe he will receive a fair trial. Bishara currently resides in Doha, Qatar.
Odeh has also recently courted controversy, on February 29 accusing Israel of murdering former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
AFP contributed to this report.