Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to oust Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset who recently visited the families of Palestinian attackers, in what critics have slammed as a “demagogic campaign.”
Netanyahu said Sunday he had asked Israel’s attorney general to take legal action against Palestinian MKs Hanin Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka and Basel Ghattas — all members of the Arab Joint List — for “going to comfort the families of murderers.”
The Israeli premier said: “I would like to examine new and reinforced legislative changes to ensure that anyone who acts in this direction will not serve in the Israeli Knesset.”
Following his remarks, a draft bill was submitted Monday to the Knesset’s Law and Justice Committee that could see Palestinian MKs suspended from the Knesset if voted for by 90 MKs, or three quarters of Israel’s lawmakers.
Israeli daily Haaretz reported that If approved by the committee, the bill could be voted on in the Knesset and drafted into law as early as next week.
Israeli activist group Gush Shalom (The Peace Bloc) urged Israelis “not to take part in a demagogic campaign against the Arab Knesset Members, even though it is orchestrated by Prime Minister Netanyahu in person.
“For months, the government of Israel and its extreme right auxiliaries are conducting a hunting expedition, targeting those who dare to raise their voice against the occupation and speak out for basic human rights,” the group said in a statement.
According to Gush Shalom, MKs Zoabi, Zahalka, and Ghattas visited the families in a bid to challenge Israel’s controversial policy of holding the bodies of Palestinians shot dead after carrying out attacks on Israelis.
The group said the visits were made with “a very specific and openly declared aim: to resolve a difficult humanitarian problem — namely, the government policy of holding onto the bodies of killed Palestinians and refusing to return them to their families for burial.”
As the Knesset’s House Committee joined the call for the MKs to face the “maximum penalty” from the Ethics Committee on Monday, it also urged the Israeli government “not to return terrorists’ bodies.”
After a surge of attacks on Israelis began in October, the Israel government began a policy of holding the bodies of alleged attackers, in what rights groups decried as collective punishment of their families.
Since the beginning of October, nearly 30 Israelis have been killed in small-scale attacks by Palestinians, most of them armed only with knives.
Around 170 Palestinians have been killed in the same period — most of whom Israel alleges were attempting attacks, although international rights groups have disputed Israel’s version of events in a number of cases.