A particularly nasty debate broke out Monday evening between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Arab MK Ahmed Tibi – as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was visiting the Knesset, looked on. Tibi screamed at Netanyahu, who spoke in praise of Israeli democracy, and later walked out when Harper said the same when he spoke to MKs.
Speaking in Harper's presence, Netanyahu said he hoped the Arab world, including Syria, “would be able to have real parliaments, like that in Israel. In our parliament, anyone can say anything they want,” Netanyahu said. In Israel, MKs are free to scream or criticize, “but this is not possible in Damascus and other places.” Israel, he said, was the only free country in the region.
A very upset Tibi, unable to restrain himself, struck out against Netanyahu for his remarks. Speaking in English, Tibi pointed to fellow Arab MK Taleb a-Sana, saying that “there is no water or electricity in his village. Perhaps in Syria they have such things.”
In response, Netanyahu said that “I haven't found any Arabs who wish to leave the State. Quite the opposite; Arabs gave been very upset at a proposal by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman that would redraw Israel's boundaries and include many Israeli Arabs in a Palestinian state.” In response, Tibi said “this is our homeland.”
At that point, Knesset speaker Yuri Edelstein chimed in, telling Tibi “your message is clear, you do not have to thank anyone for claiming the right to speak.”
During Harper's speech,Tibi shouted down the Canadian Prime Minister as he expressed his affection for Israel and the Jewish people, shouting that Israel was an “apartheid state.” He then walked out of the plenum.