Legislation passed, Zoabi suspended as Knesset prepares for summer recess


In a flurry of activity before the Knesset breaks for the summer recess this week, two significant pieces of legislation became law and controversial MK Hanin Zoabi was suspended from parliamentary activity for six months.

Zoabi, who represents the Arab Balad party, has a history of divisive Knesset activity, including participation in the infamous Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza in 2010. The Knesset Ethics Committee received numerous recent complaints over her behaviour, including one from Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. Many centred on Zoabi’s claim that those who recently murdered three Jewish teenagers were not terrorists. Edelstein also noted that Zoabi had encouraged Palestinians to take up “popular resistance” on a Hamas website. The Knesset Ethics Committee ruled that although it seeks to avoid limiting even outrageous expression, “The public in Israel, like in any country, expects that the members of its parliament, who declare allegiance to the state, will not encourage those who attack it and want to kill its soldiers and citizens.” Zoabi will be permitted to vote in the Knesset during the coming six months but cannot attend plenum and committee sessions.

Meanwhile, yesterday evening, the plenum passed a law that permits the re-arrest of prisoners who are released in diplomatic negotiations and return to terrorism. The legislation was proposed by Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin and supported by MKs from Labour, Jewish Home, Hatnuah, Shas, UTJ and Yesh Atid. It comes following the recent re-arrest of a number of Hamas activists freed in the deal to free Gilad Shalit, during the operation to locate the kidnapped Jewish teenagers. However, some MKs expressed concerns that the law would hamper future peace negotiations where the future of prisoners is discussed.

The Knesset also last night approved Communications Minister Gilad Erdan’s plan to dismantle the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and establish an alternate three-channel entity in a sweeping change to Israeli broadcasting. Some MKs have expressed concern that the IBA’s demise could spark the dismantlement of other significant state-owned public institutions.