Arab ministers who visited Palestinian families condemned
Netanyahu seeks to ban legislators who met relatives of those killed in attacks on Israelis
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu: said the three Arab Knesset members were not fit to serve as lawmakers. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters
Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu wants to ban three Arab legislators from Israel’s Knesset parliament after they met this week with relatives of Palestinians who had been killed while attacking Israelis.
The meeting between Knesset members Hanin Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka and Basel Ghattas – all from the Joint List, a predominantly Arab party – was widely condemned from across Israel’s political spectrum, coming in the midst of a spate of violence that has left more than 160 Palestinians and 30 Israelis dead since the beginning of October.
Mr Netanyahu said the Knesset members were not fit to serve as lawmakers.
“MKs going to console families of terrorists who murdered Israelis are not worthy of serving in the Knesset,” he said in a statement. “I turned this evening to the Knesset speaker to examine what measures can be used against them.”
The meeting reportedly began with a moment of silence for the “martyrs” and focused on a request from the families to the Arab Knesset members that they intervene to ensure that the Israeli authorities return the bodies of those killed.
Returning such bodies for burial is a sensitive issue in Israel but the authorities usually agree if the families promise to hold a low-key funeral without turning the event into a mass show of support for militant resistance.
“We discussed the various parliamentary actions we could take. I suggested that both he and I take the unprecedented step of submitting a personal complaint against the three MKs. There is an ethics committee in the Knesset that can consider and act when necessary. I hope that it will.”
This would mark the first time Netanyahu has filed a grievance with the ethics committee against any lawmaker. The prime minister said he also plans to ask the attorney general’s office to recommend additional measures that could be taken against the three.
Culture minister Miri Regev described the 3 MKs as a “fifth column”.
Avigdor Lieberman, head of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, said: “There is no need for any further proof that Joint List MKs are representatives of terrorism. These terrorists have to be removed from the Knesset without delay, and preferably from Israel as well.”
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett called the visit “a black stain on Israel’s history”. He urged the Arab public to denounce the visit, saying, “We can never foster unity if our own public officials meet with these murderers.”
Centrist and left-wing opposition parties also criticised the meeting as encouraging attacks against innocent Israelis and spreading incitement and hatred.