Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced support Monday for a bill enabling the Knesset to oust sitting members who express support for armed struggle against Israel, but demanded that a substantial majority of lawmakers be required to support expulsion before an MK gets the boot.
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The current version requires only a simple majority of at least 61 of the Knesset’s 120 members.
The bill’s main target appears to be MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad), who expressed understanding for the terrorists who kidnapped three Israeli teens in June and for Hamas during its 50-day war with Israel.
“An MK who, during a war or combat operation against an enemy state or a terrorist organization, publishes statements of support for armed struggle against Israel, will cease to serve in the Knesset on the day on which the Knesset, by a majority of its members and at the recommendation of the House Committee, decides that the published statements constitute support as stated above,” says the bill, an amendment to the Basic Law on the Knesset.
The bill, submitted by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), has garnered 27 co-sponsors, including MKs Hilik Bar (Labor), Rena Frankel (Yesh Atid) and David Tsur (Hatnuah) as well as MKs from Shas, United Torah Judaism, Likud and Habayit Hayehudi.
It would allow the Knesset to expel a sitting MK who voiced support for a terrorist organization or a state that was fighting Israel. The expulsion motion would first be considered by the Knesset’s House Committee, which would forward its recommendation to the plenum.
“Supporting an enemy in wartime is something that can’t be reconciled with sitting in the Knesset,” the explanatory notes to Rotem’s bill said. “Every democracy must set red lines and allow representation in parliament only when there is agreement on minimal rules of the game, including recognition of the state the Knesset member serves, and loyalty to it.”
In an unusual move, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided Sunday not to take a stance on the bill, deeming it inappropriate for the executive branch to interfere in how the legislature runs its affairs. On Monday, however, Netanyahu’s Likud faction decided to support the bill.
Netanyahu told the faction meeting that he backs the bill pending certain changes, primarily his demand that the number of MKs needed to approve an expulsion be raised substantially from the 61 proposed by Rotem.
The bill will be brought up for preliminary reading in its original wording. Any changes will then be made in committee.
Knesset members predicted Monday that the bill would pass easily. Three of the five coalition parties — Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi — support imposing coalition discipline on the vote. That would obligate the other two parties, Yesh Atid and Hatnuah, to vote for it, even though they have yet to decide whether they support it.
Currently, the Basic Law permits individuals or parties to be barred from running for Knesset if they support armed struggle against the state, but includes no provision for ousting a sitting MK.