Livni Drops Opposition to Bill Ousting Lawmakers Who Support Armed Struggle

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Tzipi Livni, May 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has lifted her opposition to a bill allowing the ouster of a Knesset member who supports an armed struggle against Israel or voices support for terror groups or enemy countries during wartime.

The so-called Zoabi Law is named after MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad), who has gained notoriety for statements including one last summer when she said the murderers of the three teens in the West Bank were not terrorists.

Ousters would only need 61 of the Knesset’s 120 members, who are scheduled to vote on the bill in a preliminary reading on Wednesday; it would then go to committee.

Livni agreed with the bill’s sponsor, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), that the two would work together to change the wording; this would be done in committee after Wednesday’s vote.

Livni wants a judicial authority to determine what constitutes support for terror. The Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which Livni chairs, declined to vote on the bill this week because it requires changes to the Basic Law on the Knesset.

Haneen Zoabi.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Knesset members expect the bill to pass easily. Three of the five coalition parties — Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi — want coalition discipline to be imposed for the vote. That would bind the other two coalition parties, Yesh Atid and Hatnuah, even though they have not yet decided on the issue.

Under the Basic Law, people and parties can be barred from running for the Knesset if they support an armed struggle against Israel, but there is no provision concerning a sitting MK.

Livni compromised after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened he would bring the bill to a vote in the full cabinet — where it has a majority — and take it from the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

Netanyahu took the same strategy with the bill that would declare Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people. Netanyahu has thus found a way to keep these bills form being buried in committee by appeal — apparently the tactic that Livni had planned.

The cabinet also requested that it not have to take a position on a bill that affects the functioning of the legislative branch. Instead, in a rare move, the bill was sent to the forum of the heads of the coalition factions, where it was decided to give the bill full coalition support.

The legislative process behind the bill is considered unusual because it was not voted on by either the Ministerial Committee for Legislation or the full cabinet before going to the Knesset for the preliminary reading and vote.

Netanyahu and his Likud party voiced support for the bill on Monday, but demanded that more than 61 votes be required.

Under the bill, the expulsion motion would first be considered by the Knesset House Committee, which would forward its recommendation to the full Knesset. The bill has garnered 27 cosponsors including MKs from as far to the left as Hilik Bar (Labor).

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