The so-called “Suspension Law”, which states that Knesset members could be suspended for misconduct if a majority of 90 MKs vote to suspend them, passed its first reading in the Knesset on Monday evening.
The law passed by a majority of 59 in favor and 52 against, two short of the majority of 61 Knesset members recommended by the Knesset's Legal Adviser, but will nevertheless be returned to the Knesset’s Constitution Committee which will prepare it for its second and third readings.
The “Suspension Law” stipulates that the Knesset will be entitled to suspend, by a majority of 90 votes, a member of Knesset who acted contrary to the policies stated in the Basic Law.
The bill was put together by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu following the actions of Arab MKs Hanin Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka and Basel Ghattas of the Joint List's Balad faction, who caused an outrage recently after they met with the families of Arab terrorists.
As expected, the bill has been rejected by the Arab MKs. After the Knesset's Constitution Committee approved the bill for its first reading, an outraged MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, claimed in a television interview that there are Jewish Knesset members who “murdered Arabs with their own hands”, particularly singling out MK Avi Dichter (Likud), a former head of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet).
The law passed following a heated debate on Monday evening, during which MK Ahmed Tibi spoke out against it, as did other MKs from the opposition.
"I, Ahmed Tibi, declare allegiance to democracy and human rights, and I will do all I can to eradicate the phenomenon of fascism, racism and exclusion,” said Tibi.
"I will continue to fight against the occupation of the Palestinian people and for peace, and I will continue to work for social justice and equality. I urge members of Knesset to join this statement," he added, repeating the message in both Arabic and English.
MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) blasted the law and said that "it is precisely because I am a patriot, and precisely because I love the state of Israel, that this law must not be legislated. This law is anti-democratic.”
Opposition leader MK Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union) stated, “This is a tribunal of politicians and we all understand that, should this law pass, something will happen to Israeli democracy. It is a law that must not be registered and engraved in the law books of the State of Israel and I call on the government – watch out, because with your own hands you are undermining the foundations of democracy.”
A statement of condemnation was also made by MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union), who said, "The law that we are being asked to vote on is another in the series of laws of hatred and fear, which Netanyahu sowed on election day when he said Arabs were flocking to the polls, This law is ‘the Arabs flocked to the polls and voted, so let's take their MKs out of the Knesset.’”
Meanwhile, MK Amir Ohana (Likud) spoke in favor of the law and said that “the Israeli public is fed up. Fed up of Knesset members participating in flotillas of terrorism, fed up by Knesset members who, in the midst of an abduction of boys who did nothing wrong, express understanding and legitimize the abduction. Fed up of Knesset members who stand up in memory of terrorists who murdered Israeli citizens, while blood is flowing in the streets.”
“Fed up of MKs who call to besiege their state without any sanctions being taken against them,” continued Ohana. “There is no other democracy living under the same threats which the State of Israel faces – and has a heated political dialogue, free to all sectors of society, but even here freedom is not unlimited. The same rules which apply to a candidate before he is elected to the Knesset – will also apply to him while in office, that's all this bill says.”