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'Historic' Debate to Determine if Arab MKs will Lose Privileges

The Knesset's House Committee will decide Monday whether to strip Arab MKs of immunity and other special rights following their trip to Libya.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 5/23/2010, 10:33 PM / Last Update: 5/23/2010, 10:43 PM

Flash 90

The Knesset's House Committee is set to debate Monday a proposal by MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) to strip several Arab Knesset members of their immunity from criminal prosecution and other privileges.

Knesset Members Ahmed Tibi and Taleb al-Sana of Raam-Taal, Muhammad Barakeh and Afu Agbariya (Hadash), and Jamal Zahalka and Hanin Zoabi (Balad) arrived in Libya on April 23 for a visit that included a meeting with the country's dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, and was calculated to stir outrage in Israel.

Following the trip, MK Ben-Ari said the Arab MKs have been abusing Israeli democracy for a long time and called the journey to Tripoli “the straw that broke the camel's back.” Israeli democracy, he said, must defend itself.

A small majority of the House Committee members are from parties considered to belong to the right wing. The coalition is represented by committee chairman MK Yariv Levin, and other members include MKs David Rotem and Robert Elituv (Yisrael Beitenu), Zeev Elkin, Tzion Pinyan and Danny Danon (Likud), Nissim Zeev and Avraham Michaeli (Shas) and Rabbi Eliezer Mozes of UTJ.  

MK Ben Ari said that the debate Monday would be the true test of the right wing coalition in the Knesset. “This is an opportunity to show a yellow card [used when penalties are committed in a soccer match – ed.] to the Knesset Members who spit on the State of Israel and debase the symbols of state, and who incite throughout the world against the soldiers of the IDF and the citizens of Israel.”

A Knesset member's essential immunity ensures that he will not bear criminal or civil responsibility for any act which he performed as part of his work as a Knesset member. In addition, Knesset members have immunities relating to searches, detention, criminal hearings and legal proceedings that are not connected with their work as Members of Knesset.

Additional rights of Knesset Members include the right of free movement within the territory of the state without limitations, and the right to a certain amount of free telephone and postal services.