Zoabi faces 6-month suspension for branding IDF soldiers ‘murderers’
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Zoabi faces 6-month suspension for branding IDF soldiers ‘murderers’

Ethics Committee likely to impose maximum ban, fine on Arab MK for remarks about troops in 2010 raid that caused near riot in plenum

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Hanin Zoabi of the Joint (Arab) List in the Knesset on December 22, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Hanin Zoabi of the Joint (Arab) List in the Knesset on December 22, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset Ethics Committee will convene next week to consider the suspension of Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi over her remarks she made in the Knesset on Wednesday in which she branded Israel Defense Forces soldiers involved in the botched 2010 commandeering of a Gaza blockade-running ship as “murderers.”

The Tuesday meeting was called after 60 MKs — from both the coalition and the opposition — lodged complaints with the committee urging the suspension the firebrand lawmaker.

According to a report in the Hebrew-language Israel Hayom, Zoabi faces a maximum six-month suspension from all Knesset activities — though she would still be allowed to vote in the plenum — and a fine of up to NIS 45,000 ($11,700).

The ethics committee is reportedly likely to impose the maximum penalty on Zoabi; this would constitute the most severe disciplinary measure ever imposed on a lawmaker by the panel.

Zoabi caused a firestorm in the Knesset when she branded the IDF commandos involved in the May 2010 raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara “murderers,” and demanded they apologize.

Her comments in the plenum led to angry shouts from other lawmakers, some of whom rushed toward the podium and demanded that she be removed.

Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi, center, confronted by fellow lawmakers in the Knesset plenum over her comments on the Israel-Turkey reconciliation agreement on June 29, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)
Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi, center, confronted by fellow lawmakers in the Knesset plenum over her comments on the Israel-Turkey reconciliation agreement on June 29, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)

Nine Turkish nationals, including one with American citizenship, were killed in clashes that erupted when IDF commandos were violently attacked by those on board the Mavi Marmara, and opened fire. A tenth Turkish national died of his wounds years later. A number of Israeli soldiers were also injured in the raid. Zoabi was on board the Turkish-flagged vessel at the time.

“I demand an apology for all the political activists on the Marmara and an apology to MK Hanin Zoabi, for inciting against her for six years and hounding her. You all need to apologize, all of the members of Knesset here,” Zoabi said. “Those who murdered need to apologize, you need to apologize.”

Her comments came the day after Israel signed a reconciliation deal with Turkey to restore ties, after years of frosty relations exacerbated by the raid. The deal provides for Israel to pay Turkey $20 million compensation over the Marmara raid, a point objected to by some Israeli politicians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Israeli parliament in the assembly hall of the Knesset, June 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Israeli parliament in the assembly hall of the Knesset, June 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to explore legal ways to expel Zoabi from the Knesset, saying that “in her actions and her lies, [Zoabi] has crossed all red lines and there is no place for her in the Knesset.”

Refusing to apologize, Zoabi a day later doubled down on her claims, saying her remarks represented a “world consensus.”

“I represent not just the Palestinian consensus, not just the consensus of my people, I represent a world consensus,” she told Army Radio.

Zoabi also rejected charges by her interviewer that she was pandering to opponents of Israel and betraying her constituency by making inflammatory remarks about the IDF and focusing on the Palestinian cause instead of issues pertaining to Israeli Arabs.

Meanwhile, Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh lodged a compliant with the Knesset Ethics Committee against Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman who branded Zoabi a terrorist when he wrote on Facebook Wednesday night that “IDF soldiers will continue to fight against terrorists on sea, air and land — and that includes terrorists traveling at sea who are members of Knesset.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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