The controversial Suspension Law, allowing a supermajority of 90 Knesset members to suspend an elected lawmaker for supporting terror or rejecting Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state, passed in the plenum on Monday night, March 28 by a vote of 59 to 53.
This was a victory for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose ruling coalition supported the law, though he failed to achieve the 61-vote majority recommended by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
The law, intended to allow for the suspension of Arab members of Knesset viewed as expressing support for terrorists who attacked Israelis, was subject to a fiery debate in the Knesset before coming up to a vote.
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni called the law “intolerable,” and predicated on “hatred and fear.”
“We must not transform the Knesset into a courtroom,” said Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet, adding that “Israel has a clear interest in the Arab community participating in the Knesset.”
The majority, however, argued that the law was necessary to enforce “red lines” crossed by Arab members.
“It protects democracy from becoming anarchy,” argued Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiansky.
“I was raised in the oldest, largest democracy in the world and consider myself a liberal, yet I support the law,” said Kulanu MK Michael Oren, a former ambassador to the United States. “Democracy is based on loyalty,” he explained, citing Abraham Lincoln to the effect that “democracy is not a suicide pact.”
MK Ahmad Tibi, of the Arab Joint List faction, chose to read his own “loyalty declaration” in Arabic, Hebrew, and English, in which he pledged to fight for human rights and against fascism and the “occupation of the Palestinian people.” Other Arab Knesset members recited the same pledge.
“You’ve lost your way, and now we’ll show you the way out,” Likud MK Oren Hazan chided the Arab lawmakers. “We’ll kick you out of the Knesset, and we’ll expel the terrorists and their families.”
Zionist Union MK Zouheir Bahloul criticized those supporting the bill for depriving the Arabs of their “poor man’s single lamb,” using the biblical rebuke provided to King David, which sparked a peculiar debate with Shas MK Yitzhak Vaknin over the authority of a biblical king.
In a surprising twist, MK Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, withdrew his support for the law despite his longstanding public support of similar measures. In a press conference, Lieberman explained that Netanyahu’s version of the bill was inadequate and that the coalition refused to support his own bill.
“Netanyahu deserves a Nobel Prize in political charlatanism,” Lieberman said, later calling Netanyahu a “liar, cheat, and con-man.”
Jesse Lempel (TPS)