The Yesh Atid party, led by Yair Lapid, announced Monday that it will support efforts to remove MK Basel Ghattas (Arab Joint List) from the Knesset following the announcement at the beginning of January of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that an indictment will be submitted against him in light of a scandal involving the smuggling of cellphones to terrorists in Israeli prisons by the MK.
With Isaac Herzog believed to have decided to give his party members a free hand in the vote at Knesset plenum on the matter, the required number for ousting Ghattas is expected to be attainted.
The law requires the signatures of 70 Knesset members, and after those are obtained by the bill’s initiator, Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), they will be submitted to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who will hand the request over to the Knesset’s House Committee, where a majority of two-thirds of the committee members is needed.
In addition to the support of Yesh Atid, there are also two Zionist Union representatives in the Knesset House Committee: MK Yoel Hasson and Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, with the former saying on Monday morning that the two would support the move.
“Given the 70 signatures that will enable the beginning of the dismissal process for MK Basel Ghattas in the Knesset House Committee, I wish to state before you my stance on the law and the removal process,” wrote MK Hasson to committee chairman MK Yoav Kisch (Likud).
“The dismissal law from its origin is a bad law that did not need to be legislated. The law was born in sin and I am hopeful that the Knesset will manage to cancel it, to erase it from the law books of the State of Israel and legislate in its place a law that is more balanced and which will provide an answer to extreme cases like these,” he said.
However, Hasson continued, “in the complicated reality that has come about following the legislation of the law, combined with the case of MK Ghattas who exploited his position as an MK to harm the Knesset, the State of Israel and the respect for Israeli democracy, and with the support of more than 70 MKs for the request for MK Ghattas’s removal, I am forced to isolate the aforementioned case from the democratic principle that has been damaged with the law’s approval.”
From the very opening of the investigation against Ghattas, Hasson continued, “numerous opportunities have been given to Ghattas to resign, opportunities that he chose not to take. For him, not resigning from the Knesset is a bargaining chip against the legal system, a chip he chooses to use despite the serious damage to the Knesset, to his constituents and the State of Israel.”
For its part, the Yesh Atid party promised that it would throw its weight behind the effort to boot Ghattas from the Knesset on the proviso that an indictment was issued against him. However, while the party’s signature was delayed and an indictment has not yet been submitted, it is now expected to put pen to paper.
After it is signed, the request will be transferred by MK Elkin to the Knesset House Committee chairman and will then be brought for approval before the committee in one reading only.
At this stage, at least 90 MKs will be required to approve it. With Yesh Atid’s support, and at least some from the Zionist Union, the chances of Ghattas’s immediate removal are significantly increased.