Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Thursday filed filed a complaint against MK Hanin Zoabi with the Knesset Ethics committee for assaulting a Knesset usher who removed her from the plenum when she exploded into a frothing rage on Wednesday.
Shortly after the incident Zoabi told the Hebrew-language press, "I'm sorry. I did not mean to hurt her or her dignity. I did not assault her, but I tried to get her hands off of me. I was leaving... I wanted to leave the plenum by myself... I'm sorry if she was hurt and I'm going to apologize to her."
Zoabi's temper-fit erupted when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – In an aside during a speech in the plenum – referenced her presence aboard the infamous Mavi Marmara during the 2010 Gaza Flotilla, when self-proclaimed 'peace activists' attempted to lynch members of Israel's Shayatet-13, or naval commando, as they boarded the ship in accordance with international maritime law.
It is widely believed in Knesset circles that Zoabi had foreknowledge of plans to harm Israeli soldiers, and may have encouraged or participated in the attack.
'Zoabi's Behavior Speaks for Itself'
Rivlin's complaint was given directly to ethics committee chairman MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) and included a a video of the incident. In the complaint Rivlin wrote, "Zoabi's behavior speaks for itself. Attacking a Knesset employee, let alone a lady working in the plenum, is an unprecedented act demanding the intervention of the Ethics Committee."
Knesset manager Dan Landau also addressed the issue, sending a letter to all Knesset employees backing the usher's actions and condemning Zoabi's behavior. In the letter he described the reaction in the plenum and said, "It required real force by the ushers to control the MK, who continued to misbehave even after having been removed from the plenum."
"A violent attack in the Knesset on a lady whose job it is to maintain order in the plenum crosses a red line that has never been crossed before," said Landau.
Landau appended his remarks to Rivlin's complaint demanding the Ethics Committee 'protect the honor' of those who tend to the Knesset, saying, "We protest the treatment of the usher. Knesset ushers are responsible for the sensitive task of enforcing order in the plenum. They, together with all Knesset employees, provide all 120 members of the Knesset with dedicated, impartial, professional service while observing the tradition of absolute political neutrality."
He added, "All Knesset employees will receive my full backing and support and protection when carrying out their duties in the sanctum of democracy."
Zoabi Blames Rivlin
"The problem here is a culture that worships power in the Knesset," Zoabi told the press. "It gives legitimacy to political violence, and incitement to hostility, and violence against those who deviate from the consensus.”
"This was aggravated by the Speaker, who exploits his role and never misses an opportunity to comment on my political positions, just because he does not agree with them,” Zoabi said.
Rivlin came under intense criticism from Knesset lawmakers after the Mavi Marmara incident when he shielded Zoabi from moves by lawmakers to remove her immunity from prosecution, when he refused to bring the matter to a vote. The Knesset had to content itself with stripping her of several Knesset privileges instead.
"The prime minister," Zoabi told reporters with her characteristic use of the third-person in referring to herself, "instead of dealing with political criticism over the fascist laws he brings each week to the Knesset, decided to bring up the flotilla, and to single out Hanin Zoabi, to rekindle the atmosphere of incitement against me, in order to earn a few moments the sympathy of the Opposition against the 'common enemy.'"
"The real danger is fascism in the Right by raising or reinforcing hatred of Arab Knesset members - and especially MK Hanin Zoabi. I will not be the scapegoat!"
Zoabi is no stranger to incitement herself, having called the concept of a Jewish state inherently racist and making veiled calls for a third intifada.