Knesset Advances Bill to Enable Suspension of Israeli Lawmakers

Despite the drama and tension, there is a general consensus that the Knesset would have a hard time actually removing or suspending an MK if the law ever passes.

Knesset meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ministers on Monday, March 28, 2016.
Emil Salman

The Knesset on Monday night passed on first reading the bill that would allow the Knesset to remove a sitting Knesset member until the end of that Knesset term, or to suspend him for a shorter period of time.

The vote was 59-53; two Likud members boycotted the vote, but the six members of opposition faction Yisrael Beiteinu also did, providing the coalition its victory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had put his full weight behind the bill. “This law is meant to suspend from the Knesset those MKs who stand behind terror,” Netanyahu told his Likud faction earlier Monday, adding “I’m expecting all those who say they support the law to vote for it.”

Before the vote, Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon  recommended that the coalition get a majority of 61 MKs to pass the bill on all three readings, out of concern the High Court of Justice might be more likely to invalidate it if it passed by a lesser majority. Nevertheless, Yinon confirmed the bill’s first reading as it was. Sources in the Knesset said Yinon’s opinion simply provides ammunition to those who would petition the High Court of Justice against the law.

Under the bill, which is actually an amendment to the Basic Law on the Knesset, the Knesset, by a vote of 90 MKs, could suspend a fellow MK for “behavior not appropriate to his position as a member of Knesset.”

The bill details the suspension procedure: First 61 MKs must submit a complaint to the Knesset House Committee. Then three-quarters of the House Committee must approve holding a vote on the suspension, and will also set the length of the suspension. During the suspension period the MK will be replaced by the next person on his party’s electoral list.

The bill was put on the Knesset agenda after three Balad MKs met last month with families of terrorists from East Jerusalem who were killed during their attacks, and whose bodies are still being held by Israel.

Monday’s vote was held after a lengthy and tense debate, during which nearly 60 MKs addressed the plenum. Despite the drama and tension, there is a general consensus in both the coalition and the opposition that the Knesset would have a hard time implementing the law if it ever passes.