3 Arab-Israeli MKs suspended for meeting with terrorists’ families


CORRECTION: This article stated incorrectly that 90 Knesset members had voted in favor of a bill that would allow lawmakers to be suspended or expelled for engaging in inappropriate behavior. In fact, the bill has not gone before the full Knesset yet.

(JTA) — Three Arab-Israeli Knesset members have been suspended from the parliament for meeting with the families of Palestinians who were killed while perpetrating terror attacks.

The Knesset Ethics Committee approved the disciplinary move against Haneen Zoabi, Basel Ghatta and Jamal Zahalka — members of the Joint Arab List’s Balad faction — on Monday, i24news reported.

Zoabi and Ghatta are suspended for four months, while Zahalka received a two-month suspension. While suspended, they may not participate in Knesset meetings, but will be allowed to vote and attend committee meetings.

Also Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition approved introducing a bill that would allow lawmakers to be suspended or expelled for engaging in “behavior inappropriate for their position as a member of the Knesset.” The legislation, which would require a vote of 90 Knesset members to suspend or expel any member, will go before the Knesset Law and Justice Committee, according to Haaretz.

Netanyahu proposed the legislation in response to the visit last week by Zoabi, Ghatta and Zahalka with families of several assailants who killed or tried to kill Israelis. They include Baha Alian, who allegedly killed three Israelis and wounded a dozen others in an Oct. 13 terror attack on a bus.

The lawmakers met Thursday with the families of three Palestinian attackers whose bodies at the time had not been returned to their families, a punitive measure used by Israel. They reportedly observed a moment of silence in memory of the dead terrorists. An agreement in principle to return the bodies reportedly was reached on Monday.

On Sunday, Netanyahu accused the lawmakers of “building walls of hatred” and said any lawmaker who visits families of terrorists should “not serve in the Israeli Knesset.”

Two members of the opposition Zionist Union party — its leader, Isaac Herzog, and Tzipi Livni — oppose the measure, which has been condemned by the Joint Arab List party. However, Herzog also criticized the Balad faction, saying its MKs “constantly provoke the state and support terror.”

A right-wing MK, Bezalel Smotrich of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, also spoke out against the proposed legislation.

“Tomorrow morning, someone might decide that Michal Rozin [of the left-wing Meretz party] is too extreme and that she has no place in the Knesset; then someone might decide that I am too extreme and that I have no place in the Knesset,” he told Army Radio, according to the Times of Israel.

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