Knesset Nixes Debate on Crime Enforcement in Arab Communities Over Sponsor's Participation in 'Terrorist' Event

Knesset House Committee chair cites MK Ayman Odeh's participation in an East Jerusalem event organized by Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine

Ayman Odeh (Joint List), in the Knesset plenum, May 2018
Olivier Fitoussi

Knesset House Committee Chairman Yoav Kish (Likud) on Wednesday called off a debate on the police’s grappling with crime organizations in the Arab community. Kish cited the participation of MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, in a Palestinian-Russian event in East Jerusalem on Monday, as the reason for calling the debate off.

Police broke up the conference, sponsored by the Russian Embassy in Israel, shortly after it began in East Jerusalem’s Ambassador Hotel, claiming it was organized by terror organizations. A number of Palestinian dignitaries from Jerusalem attending the event, which marked Russia’s National Day, were detained. They were released later and interrogated the following day.

The conference was sponsored by the Russian Embassy and the Palestinian-Russian Friendship Society, according to the invitation.

Kish claimed that Odeh, who had initiated the committee debate, was a “terror supporter and an objector to the state.” Jerusalem Police commander Yoram Halevy said the conference was organized by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine – which Israel sees as terror organizations - with the intention of focusing on “the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.”

MK Yoav Kish (Likud)
Ofer Vaknin

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein filed a complaint against Odeh to the Ethics Committee for attending the event. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan asked the attorney general to open a criminal investigation against Odeh for assisting a declared terror organization.

The House Committee’s debate was part of a special discussion day due next month dealing with crime in the Arab community. Four other committees are also slated to discuss the issue, as well as the Knesset plenum.

Kish wrote to Odeh that although he had agreed to the debate in principle, he would not allow it to take place. “An MK cannot ask for a debate in the Knesset committees about enforcement, state authority, quashing crime and the like, while acting against the state and supporting terror against it, as reflected by your participation and statement at a conference of the terror organizations the Popular Front and the Democratic Front in East Jerusalem,” he wrote.

Odeh said in response that “dealing with crime organizations in the Arab community and the value of human life apparently mean nothing to Kish, who canceled the debate on the basis of falsehoods and for half a headline.”

“The same MKs and ministers who don’t miss any opportunity to lie and incite against me personally are hurting the Arab public as a whole,” he said, adding that “the racist rightist government” is spearheading a campaign “to delegitimize the Arab public.”

Last week 68 MKs from both the coalition and opposition urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to act to quell the violence and crime rampant in Arab society. The letter, initiated by MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), said a budgeted plan is required to deal with the causes of the violence and crime, and mainly with education and social services. Jabareen said violence has become the main concern of Israel’s Arabs.