Controversial law on suspending Knesset members passes first reading
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Controversial law on suspending Knesset members passes first reading

Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh speaking at the Haaretz Conference in New York City, Dec. 13, 2015. (Erica Gannett for IRL Productions)

Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh speaking at the Haaretz Conference in New York City, Dec. 13, 2015. (Erica Gannett for IRL Productions)

(JTA) — A controversial bill that enables Knesset members to vote to suspend colleagues passed its first reading.

The measure passed by a vote of 59-52 on Monday night, the Times of Israel reported. It must pass two more readings before becoming law.

Under the legislation, Knesset members could be suspended if they “negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” incite racism, or express support for a terror group or state in its war against Israel, according to the Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu introduced the bill in February after three Arab-Israeli lawmakers provoked outrage by paying a condolence visit to families of Palestinians who were killed while perpetrating terror attacks.

Under the proposed law, 90 lawmakers would have to vote to suspend or expel a Knesset member. The Knesset has 120 seats altogether.

Opposition has come from the right and left, including President Reuven Rivlin, opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List party.

Hours before the vote, the Knesset’s chief legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, published a legal opinion saying such a law risks being struck down by Israel’s Supreme Court.