Israeli Lawmaker Calls to Investigate Arab Politicians for Taking Nation-state Law to UN

MK Forer claims Joint List members have violated the criminal code, which permits the imposition of a 10-year prison sentence

Knesset Member Oded Forer
Lior Mizrahi

A Knesset member requested Israel's attorney general to launch an investigation into Israeli Arab lawmakers for seeking United Nations intervention against Israel's contentious nation-state law.

Besides approaching Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu) also turned to the head of the Knesset Ethics Committee, Yitzhak Vaknin, seeking to have his committee convene urgently to take punitive action against members of Joint List, Israel's sole Arab party.

>> Explained: Basic Law or basically a disaster? Israel's nation-state law controversy

Last week, Lawmaker Aida Touma-Sliman, of the mostly Arab Joint List party, asked the UN undersecretary for political affairs to advance the possibility of obtaining international sanctions against the law passed weeks ago. Tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets of Tel Aviv in protest agaisnt the law, which is perceived by many as discriminatory against Arabs and other non-Jewish minorities.

Forer's request to the attorney general was based on a claim that the Joint List MKs had violated Section 121 of the Israeli penal code, which permits the imposition of a 10-year prison sentence for "deliberately damaging ties between Israel and another country, organization or institution."

"Unlike most Knesset members, who generally represent Israel's interests in other parliaments and at the United Nations, Knesset members from the Joint List are working in the international arena as the Palestinians' representatives while exploiting their status to harm Israel and undermine its foreign relations," Forer stated.

Forer added that his request to the attorney general follows "many other instances in which Joint List Knesset members have worked to harm Israel and contrary to the country's national interests."

Forer said that the MKs have acknowledged working for the imposition of sanctions against Israel and claimed that they have clearly violated the Knesset's ethics rules, which in turn justify the Knesset members' suspension from parliament and suspension of their salaries.

It is up to law enforcement officials to confirm that the offenses have been committed, but such acts would constitute the criminal offenses of contact with a foreign agent and harming Israel's foreign relations, Forer claimed.  

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and other members of Israel's governing coalition and of the opposition also criticized the Arab lawmakers on Monday. Levin said the Arab lawmakers should be tried for treason

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, said the efforts were the product of close cooperation between Joint List parliamentarians and Palestinian representatives at the United Nations, efforts that Danon claimed were aimed mainly at incitement and defamation of Israel at the UN and elsewhere around the world.

The nation-state law defines Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and states that the Jewish people has the exclusive right to self-determination in the country. It also makes Hebrew the country's only official language, providing "special status" for Arabic, while adding that nothing in the law would change the status of Arabic in practice. Critics take the law to task in part for failing to state that all of the country's citizens are equal before the law.