Arab MKs to Boycott Knesset post-Ramadan Meal to Protest Bedouin Relocation

Lawmakers call the plan racist, say they reject Knesset Speaker's complaints against them to the Ethics Committee for ripping up the bill in the Knesset.

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Arab members of Knesset are boycotting the formal Iftar dinner planned by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to mark the end of the Ramadan fast. Their decision reflects the increasingly frayed ties between Edelstein and Arab political parties following the Knesset’s preliminary approval last month of a plan to regulate Bedouin settlement in the Negev.

United Arab List-Ta’al chairman Ibrahim Sarsur sent a strongly worded letter to Edelstein notifying him of the decision to boycott the dinner, which was planned for Monday.

“We are boycotting the dinner for three main reasons," one MK explained. "The first is the decision to move the Prawer Plan bill forward. The second is Edelstein’s decision to file complaints with the Ethics Committee against the Arab MKs who tore the racist bill at the Knesset podium. The third is his decision to prevent MK [Ahmed] Tibi, the deputy Knesset speaker, from holding meetings in the Knesset after the incident.”

The Iftar dinner is a time-honored custom in which the Knesset speaker hosts the Arab MKs during Ramadan. The press invitation to the dinner, which is held in the Knesset cafeteria, reads in part: “This shared meal is an opportunity to discover what we hold in common and to deepen our commitment to living together in Israel.”

The Prawer Plan was approved late last month in its first reading in the Knesset by a slim majority of 43 to 40. The plan threatens to displace tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel living in “unrecognized villages” in the Negev.

During the heated session, most Arab MKs stood at the speaker’s podium and tore apart the bill one after another, after which Knesset Speaker Edelstein submitted a complaint to the Ethics Committee. MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash) ripped apart the bill, saying, “This is an abominable bill. It belongs in the trash can.” After Likud Minister Limor Livnat called him “rude,” he responded, “shut your mouth.” Edelstein said he intended to submit a complaint to the Ethics Committee against Barakeh for his behavior

MK Tibi, for his part, shouted at the Knesset members in the hall, “This law will be a disgraceful mark of Cain on the forehead of anyone who supports it. It is a decree of banishment that expels people from their land and their homes for the second and third time after the Nakba in 1948. What do you think a reasonable person being expelled from his home should do to defend himself? He should rise up and protest!” After his speech, Tibi poured water on the bill and ripped it up as well

MKs Dov Khenin (Hadash), Haneen Zoabi (Balad) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad) also tore the bill and left the hall. “It was the least we could do,” Zoabi said, while Zahalka, who was forcibly removed from the session, shouted as he left: “Madmen, racists and robbers.”

Protests against the Prawer-Begin plan in June 2013.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

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