Revisions Take Sting Out of MK Suspension Bill

New version requires proof that a lawmaker took concrete actions to incite to terror or racism or undermine Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state.

MK Nissan Slomiansky at the Knesset, 2014.
Michal Fattal

The “Suspension Bill” has been amended to raise the bar for suspending a Knesset member. While the previous version had allowed a 90-MK majority to suspend a fellow MK because of his remarks, the new version requires proof that he took concrete actions to incite to terror or racism, to undermine Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state, or that there be proof that this was the intent of the MK’s actions.

The bill states that a 90-MK majority can unseat an MK until the end of his or her term, in addition to providing for a shorter period of suspension.

The new version, however, omits some of the clauses that had been aimed at Arab MKs. Moreover, under the new version, an MK cannot be suspended for supporting an act of terror by an individual, but only for supporting a terror group or a hostile country. Habayit Hayehudi MK Nissan Slomiansky, who is promoting the bill, wants to broaden this clause as many of the attacks in the current terror wave have been committed by individuals unaffiliated with any organization.

A coalition source involved in advancing the bill was sharply critical of the new version. According to this source, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “doesn’t care what the law says, he just wants a law like this on the books. If you check carefully you find that you will never be able to suspend any MK on the basis of the new version.

“You need an impossible majority of 90 MKs, you need a well-grounded suspicion of support for a terror group, and in any case the bill allows the suspended MK to petition the High Court of Justice,” he said. “Just as the High Court justices in recent years have refused to disqualify the candidacies of [Joint Arab List MK] Haneen Zoabi and [Kahanist candidate] Baruch Marzel on exactly these same grounds, they won’t allow suspensions now, either.”

Members of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu faction had said last week they would the bill if it allowed open-ended suspensions, insisting that there be a time limit in the legislation. Faction chairman MK Roy Folkman said he planned to fight for a time limit, but that the faction had not finalized its position on the matter.

At the start of the Likud faction meeting Monday, Netanyahu said that while the bill is being slammed as undemocratic, both the United States and Great Britain have mechanisms for their legislatures to remove a colleague for inappropriate behavior. “It’s interesting that they say suspension is undemocratic when it happens in Israel,” he said.

The bill will be debated Tuesday for the first time by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which Slomiansky chairs.

Slomiansky has decided to split the bill into two parts. One will be an amendment to the existing Basic Law: The Knesset, to include a specific definition of the mechanism for suspending an MK. According to the latest draft, the support of 91 MKs will be required to launch the suspension process, while it will subsequently need the support of three-quarters of the House Committee. The committee’s decision will need a majority of 90 MKs to be passed by the plenum.

The second part will give an MK the right to hearings before the House Committee and the attorney general before being suspended.

The latest version of the so-called "Suspension Bill," which provides for the suspension of Knesset members in certain circumstances, states that the Knesset can unseat a sitting member until the end of his or her term, in addition to providing for a shorter period of suspension.

The updated version was sent to Knesset members on Monday by Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi.)

The Kulanu faction of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said last week that it would oppose unlimited suspension and would demand a time limit in the bill.

Contrary to previous statements by Smoliansky, the bill won't be limited to MKs who express support for terror, but will also apply to racist incitement and denial of Israel's status as a Jewish and democratic country.

Support for terror is defined as requiring activity of some sort, rather than just verbal support, and the terror will need to be that of an organized terrorist organization, rather than a single, "lone-wolf" attacker.

Slomiansky has decided to split the bill into two parts. One will be an amendment to the existing Basic Law: The Knesset, to include a specific definition of the mechanism whereby an MK can be suspended.

According to the latest draft, the support of 91 MKs will be required for the opening of the suspension process, while it will need to be subsequently supported by three-quarters of the members of the House Committee.

The committee's decision will need a majority of 90 MKs in order to be passed by the plenum.

The second part, to be known as the Knesset Law, will give an MK the right to have hearings before the Knesset Committee and the Attorney General before suspension, as well as the right of appeal to the Supreme Court.