New Bill Could Make It Harder for Israeli Arab MKs to Get Reelected

Submitted by an Yisrael Beiteinu MK, the bill would require Knesset candidates to prove they have never encouraged armed struggle against Israel.

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United Arab List MKs at the Knesset, June 24, 2015.
United Arab List MKs at the Knesset, June 24, 2015.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is expected on Sunday to vote on a bill that could significantly restrict the chances of Arab MKs to be reelected to the next Knesset and for Arab political activists to contend for a Knesset seat.

The bill, submitted by MK Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beiteinu), toughens the criteria for contending for the Knesset by demanding that candidates prove they have never encouraged the armed struggle against Israel by making public expressions of support for “illegal activity against the State of Israel.” Gal explained that the move is aimed at discouraging Arab MKs from participating in events like flotillas to break the Gaza blockade.

If until now those seeking to disqualify Knesset candidates had to prove that those candidates’ controversial statements constituted support for armed struggle against Israel, under this bill the burden of proof would shift to the candidate, who would be required to bring proof that his statements or actions did not constitute support for the enemy. In addition to Gal, the bill was signed by his faction colleagues Orli Levi-Abekasis, Robert Ilatov and Hamad Amar.

“Reality has made this law very relevant these days, because of the flotilla in which MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List) is participating,” Gal said. “The law will convey an immediate message; I don’t see any MK taking a chance in that situation and getting on a flotilla and then saying he didn’t know and didn’t see. This closes off that option.”

In consultation with the Knesset legal department, he worded the bill in a relatively vague manner, referring to “anyone who, as an Israeli citizen, publicly expresses support for terror activity or illegal activity against the State of Israel or any of its citizens.” Such a person will have to prove that his deeds did not constitute support for the armed struggle against Israel.

“Our obligation as legislators is to clarify things and not leave too much room for lenient interpretations, certainly not in a situation that’s become increasingly serious,” Gal said. “We see attempts to test the boundaries. The acceptance of support for terror over the past few years harms us. Such a flotilla causes shock waves [that encourage] phenomena like BDS. It gives legitimacy and a platform to supporters of our enemies. You see the UN report, things like that have influence.”

It should be recalled that Yisrael Beiteinu is now in the opposition. Senior sources in the coalition did not categorically reject the possibility that the ministerial committee would advance the bill, despite its being an opposition initiative, but stressed that the coalition partners have yet to formulate an opinion.

Gal was optimistic, saying he had spoken to all the members of the ministerial committee. “To the degree that my political instincts have been sharpened, it looks good. They understand that we have a common interest in stopping this dangerous phenomenon of provocation and joining flotillas. It’s hard for me to imagine a situation where government ministers don’t pass the law, and then say they want to fight this phenomenon.”

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