Two Israeli Far-left Lawmakers to Snub Zelenskyy's Knesset Speech

Although the Joint List, a coalition of Arab-majority parties, has not taken an official stance on the Ukrainian president's speech, two Israeli lawmakers say they will not be watching

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Ofer Cassif and Aida Touma-Sliman at the Knesset, in 2019.
Ofer Cassif and Aida Touma-Sliman at the Knesset, in 2019. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Lawmakers Ofer Cassif and Aida Touma-Sliman, representing the Hadash faction of Joint List, said they don't intend to watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy livestreamed speech before the members of Knesset on Sunday evening.

Touma-Sliman, responding to a query from Haaretz, said that she also did not intend to listen to Zelenskyy’s address. In an interview on Nazareth-based Radio Ashams, she said: “Despite the pressures exerted, we in Hadash will not take part in this speech and will not be part of the Israeli spectacle.”

According to Touma-Sliman: other factions of the Joint List could also follow suit, with Balad chairman Sami Abu Shehadeh currently abroad and further discussions with Ta'al set to take place over the course of the day. She stressed that the Hadash’s opposed war “wherever it may be," but that the party did not want to “play into the hands of any element trying to dictate policy to us.”

Her Hadash colleague, Ofer Cassif, is also refusing to attend the speech. He faced wide criticism for a tweet on Saturday, in which he said: “I don’t take sides in a needless war that harms innocent civilians, strengthens people in power and enriches the lords of war. I do not support nationalists and persecutors of the communists in Ukraine, and no, neither do I support Putin and the Russian communist-hating nationalists. No to war – yes to peace.”

While the Joint List has not made an official decision regarding its participation, its members are likely to not take part in the event. This is because they do not want their presence to be interpreted as support for the Zelenskyy government, which votes against the Palestinians in the United Nations and supports the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Since the Knesset is currently in recess, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy and Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgen Kornychuk agreed to broadcast Zelenskyy's speech to lawmakers via Zoom. The address, at 6 P.M. on Sunday, will be broadcast simultaneously at Habima Square in Tel Aviv.

Last week, concerns were aired that attendance at the Zoom session would be poor: quite a few of the lawmakers are abroad, and it is unclear how many of them will find time to tune in.

President Zelenskyy has been addressing parliaments, including in the U.K., U.S., and Canada, in recent weeks in a bid to rally the international community to provide concrete support to Ukraine.

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