Shaked calls Arab lawmakers ‘terrorists in suits’ with ‘no place’ in Knesset

Interior minister threatens to sue Arab party for ‘defamation,’ calls campaign ad ‘incitement’; Hadash-Ta’al calls her a ‘terrorist’ against democracy

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked during an election campaign event of the Jewish Home Party in Givat Shmuel, September 20, 2022. (Flash90)
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked during an election campaign event of the Jewish Home Party in Givat Shmuel, September 20, 2022. (Flash90)

Trading barbs over the ongoing violence in East Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said Thursday that lawmakers in the majority-Arab Hadash-Ta’al party are “terrorists in suits.”

The party “incites Israeli Arabs against the government and the state,” Shaked wrote in a Twitter statement, adding that they “have no place in the Israeli Knesset.”

In response, Hadash-Ta’al released a statement charging that Shaked, dogged by bad polling, is “joining the incitement contest against Arab society and its representatives in order to win a few more votes from the right,” and accused her of being a “terrorist” against equality, democracy, and peace.

Both Shaked’s right-wing Jewish Home party and Hadash-Ta’al are scrambling for votes ahead of the November 1 election, with Jewish Home consistently polling below the four-seat minimum to enter the Knesset and Hadash-Ta’al scraping through right above it. Recent conflict in East Jerusalem, including riots on Wednesday night, hits at the key security issue for Jewish Home and at the heart of Palestinian affairs for Hadash-Ta’al.

Earlier on Thursday, Hadash-Ta’al taunted Shaked and Prime Minister Yair Lapid in a campaign video, prompting Shaked to threaten legal action if the party did not take the video down.

Hadash-Ta’al’s video used Shaked’s image from a separate video the Jewish Home leader released from Shuafat on Tuesday. Over the image, the soundtrack said in Arabic that “Shaked is making threats and promises.”

In Shaked’s Tuesday video, she said that she would continue to push for revoking the citizenship of terrorists and their families, and well as demolishing homes, as part of her philosophy of “everything possible to restore deterrence.”

In her Thursday cease and desist letter to Hadash-Ta’al, she said she would sue the party for libel and defamation, and would demand NIS 100,000 ($28,000) in damages. She also said that the party could be liable for criminal incitement.

In its video, Hadash-Ta’al said “hands off Shuafat” and that “the occupation is putting up a siege and is killing [people].”

Hadash-Ta’al has traditionally positioned itself as third, non-participating wedge between two competing political blocs seeking to form a government after an Israeli election.

Hadash leader Ayman Odeh points during a press conference with lawmakers from the allied Hadash-Ta’al faction as they register their party list on September 15, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Although it has recently recommended candidates to the president for having a shot to form the government, it has not joined a coalition.

The party’s campaign video joins a litany of messaging to Arab Israeli voters that the outgoing Lapid- and former prime minister Naftali Bennet-led government has not been enough of a change from right-wing governments on Arab issues.

“Yair Lapid and his associates and partners are taking revenge, killing. They’re dancing on blood,” the Hadash-Ta’al video charged, saying that Lapid and his partners “will fail in Shuafat and Jerusalem, just like they failed in Gaza.”

Israel fought a three-day operation against Islamic Jihad in Gaza in August, widely hailed in Israel as successful in achieving limited goals.

“The occupation will fail,” the Hadash-Ta’al campaign video continued. “The will of our Palestinian people will be victorious through freedom.”

Jack Mukand contributed to this report.

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