Netanyahu Vows to Work to Oust Israeli Arab MK Who Called Soldiers Murderers

Ethics Committee expected to severely punish Zoabi in the next few days and sources in coalition say her comments could help bill allowing MKs to be removed to turn into law.

Jonathan Lis
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Hanin Zoabi, a lawmaker from the Joint Arab List, participates in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in the northern Israeli town of Sakhnin October 13, 2015.
Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi.Credit: Reuters
Jonathan Lis

Following a stormy Knesset session that resulted in MK Haneen Zoabi's removal from the plenum on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he is working to advance her expulsion from the legislature.

A clash broke out at the Knesset plenum on Wednesday when Zoabi (Joint List) called Israeli soldiers who participated in the takeover of the 2010 Gaza flotilla "murderers." Her comments took place during a session on the reconciliation agreement with Turkey, formally announced a day earlier.

Verbal clashes in the Knesset after lawmaker calls Israeli soldier murderers

"I spoke again this evening with the attorney general to consider advancing the process of expelling Haneen Zoabi from the Knesset. In her actions and her lies, she's crossed every line and she has no place in the Knesset," Netanyahu said.

Coalition members assessed Wednesday evening that the clash with Zoabi in the Knesset would give strong tailwind to move forward with the so-called suspension bill, giving it a substantial push before the end of the summer session. In an unusual occurrance, the bill, which would allow the Knesset to remove a sitting Knesset member, is being led by the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the Knesset. The committee is expected to renew discussions on the subject next week.

Meanwhile, the Ethics Committee is expected to severely punish Zoabi in the next few days. Two MKs, Nahman Shai (Zionist Union) and Amir Ohana (Likud) have already submitted complaints against her to the committee that is authorized to punish MKs over their conduct.

At the plenum, Zoabi said that "I stood here six years ago, some of you remember the hatred and hostility toward me, and look where we got to. Apologies to the families of those who were called terrorists. The nine that were killed, it turns out that their families need to be compensated.

"I demand an apology to all the political activists who were on the Marmara and an apology to MK Haneen Zoabi, who you've incited against for six years. I demand compensation and I will donate it to the next flotilla. As long as there's a siege, more flotillas need to be organized."

Turkey and Israel reconciled on Tuesday after a six-year rift. The agreement renormalizes diplomatic relations between the two countries and ends the crisis that erupted following the death of nine Turkish civilians during a raid by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza Strip in May 2010 – on which Zoabi was also present.

Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) also endorsed expelling Zoabi from the Knesset.

"We need to all unify, regardless of politics, to remove only one MK from the Knesset. MK Haneen Zoabi. We need to do so even if it will be a specific law for that Knesset member," he said. He added that he intends to suggest to Netanyahu to exchange the law to expel incumbent lawmakers for a law that will bring only to Zoabi's expulsion from the Knesset.

A bill to depose lawmakers who have expressed support of terror or racism, or who have voiced opposition to Israel's character as a Jewish and democratic state, is currently being advanced in the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

Wednesday's incident wasn’t Zoabi's first controversy. As well as participating in the 2010 Gaza flotilla, which resulted in clashes with the IDF, Zoabi came under fire for suggesting in 2014 that the Palestinian kidnappers of three Israeli teens who were then murdered were not terrorists. At the time of Zoabi's comments, the fate of the three teens was not yet known. She was then suspended from addressing the Knesset plenum and committees for six months.

Last January, Zoabi was convicted of insulting a public servant for making offensive remarks to Arab policemen in a Nazareth courthouse in 2014.

In February, the Knesset suspended Zoabi, as well as fellow Joint List MKs Basel Ghattas and Jamal Zahalka, for their meeting with the families of slain Palestinian terrorists. The lawmakers were barred from attending the Knesset plenum, but were still able to vote.

MK Haneen Zoabi's full speech at the Knesset

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