Israel’s Knesset Suspends Two Lawmakers for Name-calling

With words like 'pimp' and 'corrupt' being thrown around, the legislature aims to stop MKs from insulting each other in parliamentary debates

Labor MK Stav Shaffir, at a Knesset meeting.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Knesset Ethics Committee has suspended two MKs from the legislature for a week, including committees, for calling two other MKs “a pimp” and “corrupt.”

MK Michal Biran (Zionist Union) was suspended for calling Oren Hazan (Likud) a pimp. Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) was suspended for calling Miki Zohar (Likud) corrupt.

For Shaffir, the suspension means she will be unable to chair next week’s meetings of the Knesset’s Special Committee for the Transparency and Accessibility of Government Information, which she heads.

The Ethics Committee also reprimanded MK Mossi Raz (Meretz) for calling MK Yoav Kish (Likud) a terrorist. But it decided to take no action against MK Haim Jelin (Yesh Atid), who also called Zohar corrupt, because he retracted his words.

The committee said it decided on the relatively stiff penalties for Biran and Shaffir at its Tuesday session in an effort to stop MKs from insulting each other in parliamentary debates – insults that sometimes border on slander.

On Wednesday, the committee is due to discuss a series of complaints against Hazan. Sources familiar with its work said it was considering a penalty for Hazan that could go as high as a six-month suspension from committee debates as well as the full Knesset.

Still, one MK said that “there’s no final decision yet on the length of the suspension, and the final decision will be made only that morning.”

Complaints against Hazan have come from Biran and three Joint List MKs – Ahmad Tibi, Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya and Jamal Zahalka.

Biran and Hazan filed mutual complaints following an exchange of insults in the Knesset Finance Committee in November. At that meeting, Biran told Hazan, “You’re a pimp; you’re an embarrassment to the Knesset.” Several other MKs have made similar comments about Hazan ever since a court decided that a journalist who called him a “pimp” was expressing a legitimate opinion rather than committing slander.

Biran said Tuesday that she accepted the committee’s decision, but added, “Part of my job as an elected representative is to be a voice for exploited women. I would have expected a newlywed and father of a girl to think seriously about how he behaves in the outside world so as to stop embarrassing his wife and daughter.”

As she put it, “We have another few years yet before his young daughter starts being embarrassed by her father. I’d advise him to do a reset on himself now.”