Knesset C'tee: Strip MK Zouabi of Extra Rights

Knesset C'tee votes to strip Arab MK Zouabi of parliamentary immunity privileges. MK Ben-Ari drinks L'Chaim, warns others that they're next.

Contact Editor
Hillel Fendel, | updated: 10:00

Knesset plenum
Knesset plenum
Israel news photo

The Knesset House Committee voted Monday to strip Arab MK Hanin Zouabi of three privileges granted her by virtue of her parliamentary immunity. MK Michael Ben-Ari, who initiated the move, warns other Arab MKs that their turn is coming.

The vote was 7-1, with only MK Ilan Gil'on of Meretz voting against. The full Knesset must now vote on the committee's recommendation. "We are pushing for it to take place quickly," Ben-Ari's parliamentary aide Baruch Marzel told Israel National News. "It's a good atmosphere." MKs Ben-Ari, Moses (United Torah Judaism) and others drank a L'Chaim after the vote.

The three rights rescinded from Zouabi, according to the committee recommendation, are her diplomatic passport for travel abroad, special travel rights out of Israel, and legal counsel for her role in the flotilla, should she be indicted.

Letter to Arab MKs
Several Arab Knesset Members – specifically, those who took part in a recent trip to Libya, an enemy country – arrived at work this morning to find an unusual email awaiting them: A letter of warning, in Arabic, from fellow MK Dr. Ben-Ari of the National Union party.

The letter stated as follows:

“In light of my request, the Knesset House Committee will debate [on Monday] the removal of the parliamentary immunity of Knesset Members who collaborate with the enemy. The first session will deal with your comrade Hanin Zouabi, who led the terrorist flotilla to Gaza.

“After we deal with her, it will be your turn! The Israeli nation has become tired of the taking of advantage of the Israeli democracy as a means of liquidating the State. Know: Now it’s Zouabi, and next week, it will be you!”

The letter was sent to MKs Jamal Zekhalke of Zouabi’s Balad party, Muhammed Barakeh and Afu Agbariya of Hadash, and Taleb a-Sana and Dr. Ahmed Tibi of Raam-Taal. They traveled to Libya two months ago, and exchanged warm greetings and praises there with Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who addressed them and other Arab visitors for an hour.

MK Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home) noted at the time that, based on a law he initiated in the previous Knesset, the Arab visitors had disqualified themselves from running for Knesset in the next election. The law states that one who illegally visited an enemy state in the seven years preceding an election will be seen as having supported armed struggle against Israel and thus disqualified from running. Though Orlev said the Defense Ministry and Ministry of Interior had confirmed to him that Libya is on the list of enemy states, the legal counsel to the Knesset committee said Libya is not an enemy state.

Zouabi was nearly physically attacked by other Knesset Members when she ascended the Knesset podium to speak last week, after she returned from the Marmari ship. She has made no secret of her anti-Zionist and anti-IDF sentiments, emphasizing her desire to “serve my own principles and my people oppressed by the State [of Israel], and I have no problem doing so in the framework of the Knesset. My voters did not vote for me so that I would strengthen Zionism…  

"There is a people that voted for Hamas, and I fight for their right to choose.” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh personally called Zouabi last week and encouraged her to “remain strong.”

Asked if he believes that his bid to remove Zouabi’s immunity would pass, MK Ben-Ari said this morning that based on MKs’ remarks of the past few days, he is optimistic.

MK Zouabi and the other Arabs MKs were not present for the session, which was marked by sharp disagreements between left-wing and nationalist Knesset Members.