Editorial

Investigation, Not Persecution

The Dismissal Law is meant to achieve two goals: to goad Arab MKs politically, and to tag as a 'leftist' anyone who dares not to join that effort.

Israeli Arab lawmaker Basel Ghattas.
Israeli Arab lawmaker Basel Ghattas. Ilan Assayag

The current farce comes as no surprise – the attempt to use the so-called “Dismissal Law” to oust from the Knesset MK Basel Ghattas, the Joint List lawmaker suspected of smuggling mobile phones to imprisoned Palestinian senior terror operatives. When legislation of this law began, its purpose was clear: to be a tool to ostracize anyone who doesn’t toe the government line, and to persecute Arab MKs.

The Dismissal Law was not intended to deal with a problem that existing legislation did not solve. Even before it was passed, and unlike in other countries with procedures for suspending members of parliament, the Israeli law clearly stated that an MK convicted in a final court ruling of an offense carrying moral turpitude will immediately lose his Knesset seat (and after the initial conviction he will be suspended from the Knesset). Thus, the MK would be dismissed following a police investigation, indictment and examination of the evidence by a court of law.

But the framers and the legislators of the law did not make do with this. They wanted to allow the Knesset to become a kangaroo court and thus get around investigators, prosecutors and judges, with utter contempt for the separation of powers. The Knesset does not have real tools to examine the facts, draw legal conclusions or deliver a verdict. It is held captive by its inherent political structure and makes decisions based on electoral considerations – and therefore it cannot conduct a “fair trial” in a dismissal procedure.

The use of the Dismissal Law is merely a continuation of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s racist statement on Monday that the Joint List is a “list of spies and traitors,” and of the demand by some right-wing MKs not to allow Arab lawmakers into the Knesset without a body search.

Orchestrating it all, as usual, is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He stated, even before the court has all the facts, that MK Ghattas has no place in the Knesset. He even used the refusal of Yesh Atid MK Yair Lapid to sign a document launching the process of Ghattas’ dismissal as evidence that Lapid is a “leftist at the head of a left-wing party.”

Thus Netanyahu exposes the truth behind the Dismissal Law: It is not about taking a stand in view of the facts and in accordance with legal considerations, but rather a completely politicized procedure in which positions derive from an association to a party or a “bloc.” The Dismissal Law is meant to achieve two goals: to goad Arab MKs politically, and to tag as a “leftist” anyone who dares not to join that effort.

MK Ghattas should be investigated regarding any suspicions of criminality. If it is decided to put him on trial, he will be suspended from the Knesset. Any other procedure is evidence of political persecution.