Israeli Deputy AG to Arab MKs: Meeting Terrorists' Families Was Wrong, but May Not Be Illegal

Knesset committees discussing controversial meeting after receiving hundreds of complaints calling for harsh punishment of Balad MKs.

File Photo: MKs Basel Ghattas, Haneen Zoabi and  Jamal Zakalka from the Joint Arab List's Balad faction.
Rami Shlush

The Attorney General's office has not yet decided on the legality of a meeting last week between three Knesset members from the Joint List and the families of slain terrorists, Deputy AG Raz Nizri said on Monday.

Nizri was speaking at a session of the Knesset House Committee, in which all the MKs present attempted to persuade him to take legal action against the three members of the Joint List's Balad faction, Jamal Zakalka, Basel Ghattas and Haneen Zoabi.

Committee members from the Joint List and Meretz absented themselves from the committee session.

Last week's meeting between the MKs and families of Jerusalem terrorists who were killed while carrying out attacks came in the context of a campaign by the families and human rights groups to have the assailants' bodies returned to their families.

'It's possible to decide and afterwards to check, but we prefer to check first," Nizri told the MKs during the heated committee meeting. He reminded them that the AG's office received many complaints about Knesset members from across the political spectrum.

"Every group thinks that what it says about another group is covered by freedom of expression, but that what others say about it is incitement," Nizri said.

He stressed that the AG's office had not yet decided whether the meeting between the MKs and the families gave rise to the suspicion of criminality or whether it fell within the bounds of the law.

"On a public level, there is no doubt in my mind that the meeting was unacceptable and it's up to the Knesset to decide what to do," Nizri said.

But things are more complex in the legal sphere, he added, and not everything that is publically unacceptable is legally unacceptable as well.

"In order to assess whether criminality has occurred, we have asked the police to collect information in order to understand what happened and what was said during the meeting.

"Words of congratulation are not enough. We need the real prospect that it could lead to another terror attack."

The Knesset Ethics Committee, which has the authority to punish MKs for their behavior, was also due to discuss the issue on Monday. It was expected to discuss complaints laid by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and some 450 members the public, all demanding harsh punishment for the three MKs.