Members of Israel’s opposition coalition will filibuster overnight to stall a vote on a controversial bill to expand the Knesset’s power to oust one of their own. The expulsion bill, formerly called the suspension bill, grants parliamentarians the authority to permanently kick their peers out of office, with loose criteria for disqualification.
At present, the Knesset can remove an official if he or she has been indicted for criminal wrong-doing. The expulsion bill widens the margins to any representative whose actions are interpreted as against the interest of the state of Israel.
Although the bill could make any sitting member of Knesset open to the whims of the majority run amuck, there is one member of the body at the center of debate.
“Inside Knesset sometimes people call it the ‘Hanin law’,” said Reut Mor, the spokesperson for the Joint List, Israel’s third largest political party. Mor related an underlying agenda to craft legal tools to remove the most embattled member of Knesset and her political group, Hanin Zoabi.
Zoabi is no stranger to suspensions. She was recently banned from the Knesset plenary floor, less than a year after serving separate suspended sentence.
Last February after Zoabi visited the parents of Palestinians from East Jerusalem who were killed by security forces in the course of carrying out attacks on Israelis, a Knesset constitutional committee drafted an early version of the expulsion bill. The visit sparked outcry from the Israel’s Prime Minister who accused Zoabi of gallivanting with “terrorists”–a source of particular sensitivity among Israelis in the wake of knife attacks by Palestinians that have killed 35 since last October. In the same period Israelis killed at least 209 Palestinians, in violence analysts say show no signs of ending.
“I expect all those who say they are in favor of the bill to vote in support and to not give an advantage or profit to those who support terror,” Benjamin Netanyahu told members of his Likud party, reports the Times of Israel.
Zoabi and her colleagues said they were attempting to negotiated the release of the Palestinian bodies held in Israeli custody.
In cases where slain Palestinian attackers originated from the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority entered talks with Israel to coordinate the bodies’ return. But in East Jerusalem the West Bank government is banned. Zoabi stepped in to facilitate the process in light of the representative vacuum.
The bill has divided Israel’s Knesset, with far-left and center factions uniting against the prime minister. Israel’s attorney general warned the bill teetered on being unconstitutional and told legislators to proceed with “great caution,” according to Haaretz.
Head of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh said the draft law could become a stepping stone to plucking all Arab members of Knesset from their seats.
“The Prime Minister has a clear objective that this bill is just one part of fulfilling. Netanyahu does not want Arabs to vote and he does not want us to be a legitimate political force,” Odeh said, adding, “Netanyahu wants politics for Jews only. That is why he is blatantly inciting against the Arab public and against its elected representatives.”
Odeh slated 20 hours for a filibuster, beginning tonight. Israeli regulations require filibusters to be pre-scheduled. The Knesset members do not need to be present in the gallery during the debates, and many have cots and sleeper-sofas stowed away in their offices for night-time naps, said Mor the Joint List’s spokesperson.
“Usually they are in their offices sleeping and one of their staffers will come and wake them up when it’s time to vote,” said Mor who expects “a long night of talks.”
The vote will be called sometime after sunrise on Wednesday. Mor’s group calculated last March they will loose 52 to 59.