A delegation from the European parliament, including ambassadors to Israel from European Union countries, was not allowed to enter the Knesset Tuesday morning for a meeting with members of the Joint Arab List. The Knesset claimed the meeting breached protocol and was thus barred from taking place within the legislature.
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MKs Yousef Jabareen and Aida Touma-Suliman were forced to hold their discussion with the delegation outside the Knesset building after the parliament's speaker, Yuli Edelstein, conditioned the meeting on the presence of the Knesset’s diplomatic adviser.
The MKs refused to accept this demand and the speaker said the delegation would not be allowed entry.
Jabareen and Touma-Suliman expressed their disappointment with the speaker’s decision, emphasizing that it makes no sense to prevent the MKs from holding a meeting in their own faction’s offices without a Knesset representative being present, since politically sensitive discussions of this kind should take place without an unwanted presence.
The delegation later entered the Knesset building to hold other meetings, including one scheduled with Edelstein himself.
According to MKs Jabareen and Touma-Suliman, the request came directly from the European parliament's representative in Israel, that they say reached out to Jabareen and not to the Knesset speaker. Jabareen told Edelstein as much, but the latter was adamant in his demand that a diplomatic adviser be present in the meeting, saying it was protocol.
The Knesset Spokesperson said in response to the report that the "custom in the Knesset is that every visit by a delegation to the Knesset, and coordinated by it, is supposed to be joined by a diplomatic adviser. These are professionals devoid of political affiliation (the diplomatic adviser has the rank of an ambassador) and their role is to promote the Knesset's inter-parliamentary ties."
The statement said that the Joint List has repeatedly refused to comply with the Knesset's custom in this regard and "Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein insisted that if the meeting would not be held according to Knesset guidelines then it is no longer an official meeting and thus has no room in the Knesset."
Edelstein eventaully met with the delegation and explained his position.
MK Touma-Suliman said in response that "this is another attempt by the Knesset to constrict Joint List lawmaker's activities." According to her, the Knesset's treatment of the MKs is "degrading" and "indicates that Israel's Knesset not only legislates racist laws, but also selectively prevents legitimate actions on the part of its members."
During their meeting, MK Touma-Suliman briefed the delegation about the political situation of Israel's Arab community and blasted what she dubbed unbridled racist legislation by the current government, stressing that such actions highlight the undemocratic nature of the government.