Netanyahu Seeks to Oust Lawmakers Who Meet With Terrorists' Families

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 3, 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 3, 2016.Credit: AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that lawmakers who visit terrorists' families and observe a moment of silence in their memory should not be members of the Knesset. 

The remarks came in response to a visit paid by MKs Jamal Zakalka, Basel Ghattas and Haneen Zoabi, from the Joint Arab List's Balad faction, to the families of Jerusalem terrorists who were killed while carrying out attacks. The visit was part of a campaign being conducted by the families and human rights groups seeking the return of the assailants' bodies to their families. During the meeting, the MKs joined the families' representatives in observing a moment of silence. 

Netanyahu said on Sunday that he will promote legislation barring "anyone who acts this way" from serving in the Knesset. 

The prime minister called on the opposition to support the legislation as well as the complaint he had filed with the Knesset's Ethics Committee against the three Arab MKs.  

"Many Israeli citizens don't feel that these Knesset members represent them," Netanyahu said. "We invest great [efforts] in integrating Arab citizens in Israeli society, and they do the opposite – they build walls of hatred. 

"I'm trying to imagine what would have happened in the British Parliament or the U.S. Congress if members would stand to attention in memory of those who had murdered British or American citizens. A great outcry would sound, and it would be justified."

Members of the Joint Arab List's Balad faction accused Netanyahu of attempting to gain political capital by promoting legislation that would harm Israel's Arab minority. "Netanyahu is well aware that the meeting's purpose was to promote the release of the bodies, but he continues to distort facts and incite with false accusations."

A day earlier, the prime minister asked the attorney general to examine which legal steps the state can take against the Arab lawmakers. 

Netanyahu on Sunday also called on the international community to condemn an incident in which Torah books were torched in a West Bank synagogue.

"We are in the middle of a difficult struggle between those who seek peaceful coexistence and those who want war and blood," he said. "We will catch the arsonists and we will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, but I expect all those in Israel and around the world who justifiably condemn the desecration of mosques to voice the same outcry and the same condemnation of this crime."

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