Knesset Speaker Refuses to Sign Lawmaker's Resignation Letter in Arabic Because He Doesn't Speak It

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Lawmakers Younis and Ahmed Tibi with Knesset Speaker Edelstein.
Lawmakers Younis and Ahmed Tibi with Knesset Speaker Edelstein.

The resignation of Israeli Arab lawmaker Wael Younis (Joint List) was rejected Wednesday because he submitted his resignation letter in Arabic.

Speaker Yuli Edelstein refrained from signing onto the letter, alongside the time of its submission, certifying the time that it was received. Edelstein's office explained that the speaker would not sign a letter which he cannot read, and demanded it be resubmitted in Hebrew. Edelstein had the letter translated by Knesset staff and signed onto the Hebrew version.

"The Knesset members tried to pull a fast one when they submitted a letter to me in a language that I do not know," the speaker said in a statement. "I respect the Arabic language, but cannot sign on a letter that I can't read."

The speaker's signature is part of the process of resignation, which takes effect 48 hours after it is submitted and cetrified. Younis submitted his resignation as part of a prior rotation agreement within his Joint List faction, providing for his resignation to enable a new Knesset member to join the faction.

The incident follows the passage of controversial legislation, the basic law on the nation-state, which in part defines Hebrew as the country's sole official language, downgrading the status of Arabic to "a language with special status." But the law also includes a provision, that Arabic's status would not be harmed in practice.

Younis' resignation letter.

On Wednesday, Israel's Higher Arab Monitoring Committee filed a petition with the High Court of Justice seeking to have the nation-state law struck down. It was submitted together with Younis' Joint List Knesset faction, with a group representing Arab mayors and the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. This was the fifth petition challenging the nation-state law since it was passed last month.

Arab Israeli leadership is planning a rally at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to protest the nation-state law. Sources at the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee and the Joint List acknowledge that a rally held last Saturday in Rabin Square by the country's Arab Druze community, which attracted a crowd of about 90,000, posed a “major challenge” when it comes to turnout at next Saturday's demonstration. Efforts are being made to insure a large turnout for the upcoming demonstration, and organizers are expected to reach out to various left-wing organizations to recruit their participation in the rally.

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