Netanyahu and Lieberman Leading a Knesset Boycott of the Arab Parties

Initiative to walk out on addresses from Arab MKs arises after they refused to attend the funeral of former president Shimon Peres.

Netanyahu and Lieberman at the Knesset on May 30, 2016.
Netanyahu and Lieberman at the Knesset on May 30, 2016. Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he plans to support the coalition initiative to boycott the MKs of the Joint List of Arab parties when the Knesset reconvenes at the end of this month. 

The move, initiated by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, is aimed at protesting the decision by the faction’s MKs to stay away from the funeral of former President Shimon Peres. Members of the coalition are expected to leave the plenum during addresses by Joint List MKs, and may even work to delay debates, agenda items, and parliamentary queries that the party’s MKs initiate.

“Members of the Joint List have proven that there’s no point anymore in discussing anything or even arguing with them, and that we must decide to boycott all their appearances and addresses in the Knesset,” Lieberman said. Lieberman asked MK Oded Forer of his Yisrael Beiteinu party to approach Zionist Union and Yesh Atid in an effort to persuade them to join the move.

Coalition chairman MK David Bitan confirmed that Netanyahu supports the boycott and made it clear that he would convene the coalition executive when the winter session opens to pass a resolution about sanctions against members of the Joint List. 

“The behavior of the Arab MKs, which expresses itself also in their absence from Shimon Peres’ funeral, proves repeatedly that it isn’t motivated by a true concern for Israel’s Arab population or for coexistence but that they work toward separatism, incitement, and polarization,” Bitan said. 

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh attacked Lieberman in response, calling the initiative, “A new record of depravity. He, whose entire political legacy is built on hatred and polarization, is trying to teach us how to build bridges. As we know, however, Lieberman’s initiatives to undermine the political representation of Arab citizens boomerang on him and only strengthen us, so that his intimidation only strengthens the Joint List. We will continue to work in all arenas, including the parliamentary arena, to advance peace and equality.”

There have been several boycotts at the Knesset in recent years. Many female lawmakers staged walkouts during speeches by Likud MK Oren Hazan over reports that he had dealings with prostitutes, and leftist MKs used to leave the plenum when far-right MK Michael Ben-Ari spoke. Joint List members often boycotted Netanyahu's speeches, as well.

Zionist Union co-chair Tzipi Livni responded unfavorably to the iniative, saying that "The boycott of the Joint List won't save us from or prevent the next terror attack. Instead of stopped the deterioration and preventing the next year from become a year of terror, as we experienced last year, Netanyahu, led by Bennett and Lieberman, is playing at petty politics.

"This is a lost government without a path, without vision, that doesn't know how to provide security," she concluded.