Bill Requiring Israeli Flag at Events With State Officials Suffers Setback

Coalition whip David Bitan withdraws support of the bill he cosponsors with other Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu lawmakers.

Likud MK David Bitan, May 2015.
Knesset

Coalition Whip David Bitan (Likud) said Wednesday he would withdraw his cosponsorship of a bill requiring the national flag to be flown at any event where state representatives are participating in their official capacity.

The Likud MK added that he would no longer push for the bill’s enactment, a move that is expected to significantly reduce its chances of passing.

Under the legislation, event organizers who violate the flag rule would be fined 5,000 shekels ($1,320). Also, public officials would be barred from taking part in any other event organized by the violators for the next six months.

The bill’s main sponsor is MK Oren Hazan (Likud). It has several cosponsors  including Nava Boker (Likud), Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu).

The bill’s explanatory notes say it was submitted in response to a Haaretz conference in New York last December where the Israeli flag was removed during an address by the Palestinians’ chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat.

“We recently witnessed the state president participating in a Haaretz conference in New York at which the Israeli flag was removed from the dais at the request of one of the conference participants,” the notes say.

“The goal of this bill is to prevent a situation in which an official representative of the state participates in an event at which the national flag isn’t displayed.”

Hazan told Haaretz the bill is necessary because “Jewish and Arab MKs aren’t necessarily familiar with the state’s symbols.”

“When you’re a public emissary and are invited to an event, you represent the Knesset and what the state symbolizes,” Hazan said. “It’s inconceivable that you should receive a platform as a Knesset member but not feel any obligation toward the state.”

He said he also planned to submit a bill that would require MKs to fly the flag on the state-owned cars they receive.

The flag appears to be a big issue for the current governing coalition. Just last month, the Knesset passed a bill significantly stiffening the punishment for desecrating it.

That legislation raised the maximum prison sentence for destroying a flag to three years from one, bringing it in line with the penalty for destroying another country’s flag. It also raised the maximum fine for desecrating the flag to 58,400 shekels from 300 liras, an old Israeli currency that hasn’t been used in decades and is worthless today.