Herzog, Livni Clash Over Bill to Bar BDS Supporters From Israel

'We have to take a more centrist line,' says party leader Herzog, igniting an argument with Livni, who claims such a bill would only strengthen the boycott movement.

Tzipi Livni, left, and Isaac Herzog at a meeting of the Zionist Union in Jerusalem, November 7, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

Israel's two Zionist Union leaders clashed on Monday over a bill that would bar foreign citizens who support boycotting Israel from entering the country.

Isaac Herzog, head of the opposition and chairman of the Zionist Union, expressed support for the bill, submitted by Kulanu lawmaker Roy Folkman. The bill passed its first reading on Monday. All seven Zionist Union members participating in the vote abstained. Among Yesh Atid MKs, Yair Lapid and Mickey Levy supported the bill, while Ofer Shelah and Yael German voted against it.

Herzog said: "We have to take a more centrist line, thus our voters are switching to Yesh Atid. We must support the bill."

Livni replied: "The left clearly defends democracy, but branding doesn't interest me; ideology does. We have to stand up to this McCarthyism and not join this trend. That is what Lapid is doing. This bill is a huge gift to BDS and strengthens, not weakens, it.” Livni said she is going to Italy next week to defend Israel. "What will I say in Europe? BDS members don't care if they attack Israel from here or abroad," she said. "The law weakens the ability to defend Israel."

MK Eitan Broshi told Livni: "You are new here. We have been fighting for years to explain our complex opinions to the public."

An argument also broke out between Broshi and lawmaker Yossi Yonah when the former said there is no way to explain the party's opposition of such a law to the public, and that's why it should be supported. Yonah responded that the law gives great power to the Shin Bet security service to decide who enters Israel and who doesn't. MK Erel Margalit said: "Wake up, this is a fascist law. The person submitting it is a nice guy, but it doesn't change the fact that the bill comes straight out of the far right-wing playbook of silencing people and limiting freedom of expression. No one here can contract this bug called the far-right. It is a real virus."

After all the arguments, Herzog, Broshi, and lawmakers Omer Bar-Lev and Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin supported the bill. Livni, Yonah, Margalit and MK Eyal Ben-Reuven opposed it. Faction whip MK Merav Michaeli decided that the Zionist Union will not vote on the bill.