Poll: Most Israelis want Balad MKs expelled from Knesset

Most of the Israeli public supports taking action against Balad MKs Hanin Zoabi, Basel Ghattas and Jamal Zahalka over their meeting last week with the families of Palestinian terrorists, an Israel Hayom survey conducted Sunday by the New Wave Research Institute has found.

Asked “What course of action do you think should be taken in the case of the three Arab MKs who met with Palestinian terrorists’ families?” 57% of respondents said they should be expelled from the Knesset and 35% said they should be prosecuted for incitement. Only 8% said they believed the MKs had not exceeded their authority and no action should be taken against them.

The poll comprised a random pool of 500 Jewish, Hebrew-speaking Israelis over the age of 18 and had a margin of error of 4.4%.

Scathing criticism from across the political spectrum was leveled at the Balad MKs over the meeting, held last Tuesday in east Jerusalem. Balad is one of the factions that comprise the Joint Arab List, alongside Ra’am-Ta’al and Hadash.

Army Radio reported Monday that since news of the meeting broke Friday, over 450 public complaints have been filed against Zoabi, Ghattas and Zahalka with the Knesset’s Ethics Committee.

Dozens of MKs, including Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said they plan to file Ethics Committee complaints against the three.

This will be the first time Netanyahu files a grievance with the Ethics Committee against any lawmaker.

Netanyahu has asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to review what legal action can be taken against Zoabi, Ghattas and Zahalka. Mendelblit has ordered a police review of the matter, which will be used to determine whether the meeting constituted a criminal offense.

The prime minister is also promoting a bill to allow the suspension of MKs for conduct unbecoming.

The bill would enable a special majority vote of 90 MKs, similar to the majority necessary to suspend the president or the Knesset speaker, to suspend lawmakers found culpable of unbecoming conduct. The bill would allow the Knesset to suspend such MKs for either short periods or for the duration of the Knesset’s term.

It also calls for suspension without pay or any of the other benefits of incumbent lawmakers, and seeks to strip suspended MKs of their parliamentary immunity.

A suspended MK would be replaced by the next person on that party’s Knesset list. Once the suspension term elapses, the MK will be able to resume office, and his replacement will step down.

The prime minister is seeking to pass the bill through a rapid legislative process, and has tasked Immigrant Absorption Minister Zeev Elkin with overseeing the issue.

Elkin and Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi) have agreed to debate the bill by Wednesday. They also agreed that it will be presented to the Knesset as a committee legislative proposal, eliminating the need for a preliminary reading, as required with private bills. Under Israeli law, committee and government legislative proposals undergo only three readings, while private bills require four.

If the Constitution Committee agrees on the bill’s draft on Wednesday, the proposal will be presented for its first reading in one week.

As the bill constitutes an amendment to Basic Law: The Government, it will require a majority of 61 MKs to pass. If it passes its first reading, it will be presented for its second and third readings the following week.

Given the wall-to-wall condemnation of the Balad MKs’ move, several opposition parties, such as Yisrael Beytenu, are expected to support the bill. This could see the bill enacted as law within the next two weeks.

Kulanu MK Eli Cohen is also expected to present the Knesset with a private bill that would allow the Knesset to strip lawmakers of their immunity and impeach them with a special majority vote of 80 MKs. The bill states the Supreme Court would have to approve such impeachments.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu noted that the government is “sparing no effort to integrate Arab citizens in Israeli society, and they [Balad MKs] are doing the exact opposite — they are building walls of hatred.”

Elkin said the MKs’ “latest act has crossed every possible red line. No parliament in the Western world would agree to its members supporting terrorists.”

The Joint Arab List denounced the bill as “incitement.”

“The prime minister continues with his methods of deceit and incitement,” Joint Arab List leader Ayman Odeh said Sunday. “We are adamantly opposed to the Israeli government’s trade in remains. Netanyahu and his ministers know very well what the meeting, held in east Jerusalem, was about.

“This is a basic humane issue. A person who died, no matter how horrible his crime, should be buried. This does not contradict our moral principle — we denounce any harm brought to innocent people.”

Speaking with the Walla news website Monday, Odeh commented on the future legislation, saying, “In a fascist atmosphere like we are seeing, I’m afraid Balad could, potentially, be expelled from the Knesset. If that happens we’ll file a High Court of Justice petition. I don’t know what the court will decide, but if it [the impeachment] stands, it will be a serious blow to democracy and the Arab population.”

Meanwhile, Israel announced Monday that it will return the bodies of the 10 terrorists whose families met with the Arab MKs. The return was delayed over Israel’s demand that the families refrain from holding mass funerals that would become public spectacles of incitement. The return of the bodies was approved after the families agreed to hold small, night-time funerals.