It's official: MK Zahalka will not return to the Knesset

Following days of speculation, lawmaker from Arab Joint List faction confirms he will not return to the Knesset.

Tzvi Lev ,

Flash 90

Following days of speculation, Joint List MK Jamal Zahalka announced that he will not return to the Knesset after the upcoming elections in April.

Joint List party statutes mandate its lawmakers to quit after four terms, forcing the veteran MK to leave Knesset after 16 years.

"After 16 years as a member of the Knesset, I am proud to say that we have achieved change," said Zahalka. "Balad members and I are committed to putting the project of a state for all its citizens as a single comprehensive alternative to the structure of the existing regime."

"Withdrawing from the Knesset does not mean leaving public life," added Zahalka. "I will continue as chairman of Balad to work for justice, freedom and equality, and I will continue to work for pluralism of thought and the eradication of hatred and racism and for the end of the occupation and the achievement of a just peace."

Zahalka is responsible for a slew of controversial, anti-Israel statements during his 16 years as an elected representative. Zahalka has stressed that he does not regret any of his statements, including saying that he "prefers to die than to sing the Israeli anthem," and that the Israeli flag was "worse than a rag."

Zahalka famously tangled with Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir in 2015, saying that she and other leftists "urinate from above on the Arabs".

“The right wingers are much better than you,” Zahalka stormed in a speech that subsequently went viral. “The Likud established the settlements alongside Arab villages, but Labor established its kibbutzim atop the ruins of Arab villages! Give us back our land!”

Singling out Shaffir, Zahalka accused her of being a snob who never answers him when he greets her. “Since you came to the Knesset, you never spoke to me! You never told me hello," he told her.

"I try and try to say hello and you do not answer! Racist! The extreme right are at least human beings, they smile at you and say hello. Even Yisrael Beytenu MKs smile to us. But the members of the Labor party are the mother and father of racism! You invented racism!"