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Knesset Defends Decision to Strip Zoabi Privileges

The Knesset defended stripping MK Hanin Zoabi of several privileges before Israel's High Court of Justice as "balanced and proportionate."
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 6/22/2011, 6:07 PM / Last Update: 6/22/2011, 8:41 PM

Flash 90

The Knesset's decision to strip MK Hanin Zoabi of several privileges following her active participation in 2010 Gaza-flotilla and trip to Libya was "balanced and proportionate," Knesset legal counsel Eyal Yinon told the Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Yinon had been directed by the court to explain why the Knesset Speaker "allowed such a rare and extraordinary measure" that held "a fundamental significance beyond normal operations of the Knesset."

"Zoabi intends to continue in what most MKs believe is a path exceeding the legitimate scope of her position and holding her to account can prevent such behavior in the future," Yinon told the court.

"This was a clear exercise of Knesset jurisdiction carried out according to Knesset rules due to the extraordinary nature of Zoabi's own actions," Yinon stressed.

The court's request for Yinon to explain the Knesset's decision came after Zoabi and MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) filed petitions to reinstate Zoabi's diplomatic passport, unrestricted foreign travel, and payment of legal fees that might arise from foreign trips, or actions that harm national security. Zoabi and Cabel were joined by Former Shin Bet chief and Labor minister Ami Ayalon, political strategist Tal Silberstein and former Labor leader Amram Mitzna, as well as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

During the 2010 Gaza-flotilla self-described 'peace activists' aboard the Mavi Marmara attempted to lynch members of Israel's Shayatet-13, or Naval Commando, who boarded the vessels in accordance with international maritime law.

Zoabi, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara, was widely believed in Knesset circles to have foreknowledge Israeli soldiers would be attacked and to have given the attackers 'aid and comfort.'  So charged was the reaction to Zoabi's actions that MK Anastasia Michaeli (Israel is Our Home) tried to physically remove Zoabi from the rostrum when she next appeared in the plenum.

 
Shortly after that incident Zoabi visited Muammar Qaddafi in Libya with five other MKs, resulting in a failed attempt by MKs to strip the visiting MKs of their parliamentary immunity and try them for visiting an enemy state.

In that case Zoabi was saved from having her immunity stripped and prosecution by Knesset speaker Reuven "Ruby" Rivlin, who refused to bring the motion to a vote, saying a Jew who had done the same thing would not have faced such a move. Instead, the Knesset had to content itself with sanctions.

The High Court hearing on Zoabis Knesset privileges came on the same day as the "criticism versus loyalty" debate at the Presidents Conference.