PM Binyamin Netanyahu
PM Binyamin NetanyahuFlash 90

The Knesset can be a tough crowd for any Prime Minister. The fierce debate often forces the Knesset speaker to intervene and even discipline MKs who are deemed too disruptive.

So PM Netanyahu must have been quite pleased at requiring the speaker to call the legislature to order for a very different reason.

The exchange took place Thursday night, as the Knesset debated a bill that would require a national referendum before the signing of a deal that cedes land under Israeli sovereignty to another country.

A heated exchange developed in the course of the debate, between Jewish and Arab MKs. MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) told the Knesset: “Since the referendum is over occupied territory, what applies is international law, and therefore the national referendum should be a binational referendum.

MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) shouted at Zahalka: “The Land of Israel belongs to the nation of Israel and you are the foreigners here!”

To this, Zahalka replied: "We were here before you. I was here before you. And we will be here after you! So stop dreaming.”

Hearing this, the prime minister requested the right to reply to Zahalka – an action he rarely takes.

He went to the podium and said: “I hadn't intended to speak. But I heard the statement by MK Zahalka. You said, 'We were here before you... and we will be here after you.' The first part is not true. And the second part will not happen.”

With that, Netanyahu strode off from the podium, leaving the Knesset speaker to restrain MKs from the applause that they spontaneously engaged in.