Knesset Bill Would Bar MKs Who Visit Enemy States

A bill that will prevent those who visit enemy states from being members of Israel’s Knesset passed its first reading Wednesday.

Ezra HaLevi ,

MK Ahmed Tibi
MK Ahmed Tibi

A bill that will prevent those who visit enemy states from being members of Israel’s Knesset passed its first reading Wednesday.

The bill, submitted by government-coalition member MK Esterina Tartman (Yisrael Beiteinu) and MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) is aimed at preventing Arab MKs’ regular visits to Lebanon and Syria. It was approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation and then passed by a majority of 52 in favor and 19 opposed. It must pass two more readings before it becomes law.

The states classified as enemies are: Iran, Yemen, Syria, Venezuala, Somalia, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Chad and Afghanistan. Special permission may be granted by the government for individuals or MKs to travel there, however.

Arab and Meretz MKs responded angrily to the bill’s passing. MK Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash) declared: “If you make us choose between loyalty to our people and being in the Knesset – we'll leave the Knesset to you, and let all the racists choke!"     

MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) also claimed the bill, which applies both to Jews and non-Jews, is “racist.”

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) vowed to defy the law. “Corrupt MKs want a Knesset without Arabs,” he said. “Next time I am invited, I will go even if it means I have to sit in jail.” He and fellow Arab MKs have made a practice of visiting Syria and Lebanon in defiance of Israeli law. Until now, Israel’s Attorney General Menachem Mazuz – the sole arbiter on whether to enforce the law – has declined to prosecute the MKs. The proposed law would change that and result in their removal from the Knesset.    

The phenomenon of Arab MKs associating with enemy states came to the fore following Balad Chairman and former MK Azmi Bishara’s fleeing of the country amidst an investigation into charges that he assisted Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War. Bishara frequently visited Syria and following his flight from Israel met with Hizbullah Chief Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon.    

“The Bishara affair and incitement against Israel on the part of some of the Arab MKs, as well as their trips to Syria and meetings with heads of the Hamas, are beyond the realm of free speech and constitute clear encouragement of attacks and terror activities against Israel and her citizens,” MK Orlev said.

MK Tartman pointed out that similar laws exist in most other nations. “It's time that Israel opens her eyes,” she said. “Enough with Arab MKs spitting in our faces and us pretending it's raining.”