The Knesset passed a law late Tuesday night allowing a two-thirds majority to expel a sitting member of parliament who was found to be inciting to racism or supporting an armed struggle against the State of Israel.
The controversial legislation passed the second and third readings in a 62-47 vote after a tumultuous meeting that lasted into the night.
MK Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) presented the bill while Arab MKs, among them Ahmad Tibi and Jamal Zahalka, slammed the legislation. The uproar continued when MKs from Meretz and from the Zionist Union vocally protested the proposal as well.
The law will allow the ouster of an MK only with the support of 90 out of the 120 members of Knesset, at least ten of which have to be from the opposition.
After Slomiansky presented the legislation, members of the opposition noticed the coalition did not have the sufficient amount of votes to pass it and demanded to hold the vote posthaste.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) tweeted during the meeting “We decided, all factions of the opposition, to call for an immediate vote on this imbecilic law—the coalition is in panic mode.”
The coalition then insisted Slomiansky returned to the podium to respond to the objections raised against the bill.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein allowed it—denying he did so in order to stall for time—and while Slomiansky was responding to objections, coalition members were called in from home, including Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who is currently on maternity leave.
During the tempestuous meeting, MK Ilan Gilon was removed from the plenum after being called to order three times, while many of the opposition MKs were enraged and constantly interrupted Slomianksy.
MK Tibi claimed that “There were no reservations made so there’s no room, based on the regulations, for another discussion, ” while MK Tzipi Livni started reading out the relevant section of the Knesset regulations that indicated it was time for the voting to commence.
Slomiansky addressed the claims made against the legislation that it was “targeting a specific party.”
“My friends from the Joint Arab List told me that this law is supposed to get rid of Bayit Yehudi members, ” he said, referring to his own party. “This means it’s targeting them (Bayit Yehudi) and not you (Joint List). The last time such a move was enacted was against Jews.”
The Arab MKs were outraged by Slomiansky’s comments, shouting at him “Tell the truth. This is against us.”
Herzog argued that “if we know that MKs can oust another MK, it would be a black mark in the history of the Knesset.”
He later wrote on Twitter, “The ‘Ouster Law’ is a black stain on the State of Israel. The government of hate is busy widening the rift threatening the State of Israel more than any outside enemy.”
Jerusalem Minister Ze’ev Elkin provoked further outcry when he accused, “Of all the issues there are, you chose to defend (MK Hanin) Zoabi? You gave up on everything, skipped discussions, lost vote after vote, but you are fighting to defend Zoabi.”
This was met with outrage from the opposition, with Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson lamenting “You’ve ruined the country, you’ve buried democracy. You have no God.”
The new legislation is an amendment to Basic Law: The Knesset, led and supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pushed by Slomianksy, the chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
The old legislation determined that a person cannot run for Knesset if his acts or objectives serve to reject the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state; incite to racism; support an armed struggle and more. But if such acts are carried out by someone already elected to Knesset—they cannot be removed from the legislature until the next elections, when they could be disqualified.
The new amendment will allow beginning the process of expulsion only after obtaining the support of at least 70 MKs, with at least 10 of them from the opposition. The preliminary discussion the Knesset must also have the support of three-quarters of its members.
The decision to expel an MK will come into effect 14 days after it was made to allow the expelled MK to appeal it to the Supreme Court. During those 14 days, the expelled MK will not be allowed to join Knesset discussions, but will be able to continue voting.
In addition, the Knesset will not be able to expel any of its members during elections time, as such a decision is more likely to be politically motivated.
The new legislation will not apply to acts done before it came into effect, so the Knesset will not be able to expel MK Hanin Zoabi for her past virulent comments against IDF soldiers or for her participation in the Marmara flotilla.