Israeli Defense Chief Accuses Center-left, ultra-Orthodox Parties of Thwarting 'Terrorist' Lawmaker's Removal From Knesset

Lieberman says the only thing not democratic about the controversy surrounding MK Haneen Zoabi is her 'sitting in the Knesset and working against Israeli soldiers'

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at a Yisrael Beitenu meeting, May 2018
Emil Salman

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday that the reason lawmaker Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) is still sitting in the Knesset is because members of the center-left and ultra-Orthodox parties refuse to support her dismissal. 

Lieberman said he "cannot understand why (Deputy Health Minister) Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), (opposition head) Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union), and Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid), are supporting this terrorist." Lieberman also snapped at Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg, saying: "nobody expects anything else from you."

Lieberman, who had previously called for Zoabi's arrest and urged for her citizenship to be revoked, continued: "the only thing that is not democratic about this issue is that a terrorist is sitting in the Knesset and working against Israeli soldiers."

In a tweet bearing a cartoon of Zoabi, Lieberman reiterated his criticism and called Zoabi a "terrorist" that advances "terrorist legislation against Israeli soldiers and citizens." He called MKs to exert pressure on lawmakers refusing to sign MK Oded Forer's [Yisrael Beiteinu] proposal to dismiss Zoabi "as the law demands." 

Last week, 9 Supreme Court justices rejected petitions against a law that allows lawmakers to expel one of their colleagues from the Knesset by vote. According to the law, an amendment to the Basic Law on the Knesset, 90 lawmakers can remove a sitting member of Knesset from office if they believe that his or her actions incite racism, reflect support for armed struggle against the state or for a terror organization. The removal process can begin once 70 MKs, including ten who are not in the coalition, sign a removal request; this is the majority MK Forer is currently not managing to reach. Supreme Court President Esther Hayut wrote in the verdict that while the law "seriously infringes basic rights," it contains a system of checks and balances and "it cannot be said that it contradicts the core of the state's democratic identity."

The bill was passed in July 2016 by a vote of 62 to 45. After it passed, two petitions against it were put forth by MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Adalah (the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel), and one by Attorney Shahar Ben-Meir.

In March, the Knesset Ethics Committee temporarily suspended Zoabi from the Knesset for a week after she called Israeli soldiers "murderers." Zoabi claimed that "such expressions are part of the very essence of the freedom of expression and no one has the right to shut other people's mouths because their opinions are inconvenient. I spoke the truth." In addition, she suggested sending the Ethics Committee a list of Palestinians murdered by soldiers. The committee rejected her claim and ordered her suspension starting from the first week of the summer session.

File photo: MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List).
REUTERS