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Netanyahu to take action against Palestinian MKs

Feb. 5, 2016 5:19 P.M. (Updated: March 19, 2016 4:29 P.M.)
Netanyahu is likely to be pressed about settlement building in occupied territories when he visits Britain. (Pool/AFP/Menahem Kahana, File)
By: Killian Redden

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to take action against Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset after they visited the family homes of Palestinian attackers, a Knesset press release said Friday.

The Israeli premier, together with Knesset House Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, is to file personal complaints with Israel's Ethics Committee against the MKs, in what the statement described as an "unprecedented measure."

"Members of Knesset who go to comfort the families of terrorists who murder Israelis are not worthy of serving in the Knesset of Israel," Netanyahu reportedly said.

"I contacted the Knesset Speaker this evening in order to check what steps can be taken against them."

The Knesset statement said the complaints would be filed against Palestinian MKs Hanin Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka and Basel Ghattas, all members of the Arab Joint List.

Edelstein alleged that the MKs' recent visit to the families of Palestinians responsible for attacks on Israelis amounted to "incitement and encouragement to murder," the statement said.

"I see this as seriously harming the Knesset and the State of Israel and hope that this will enter the hearts and minds of Supreme Court judges next time they rule on an appeal of the disqualification of unworthy candidates for the Knesset," he said.

The Joint List, an alliance of four Palestinian parties, was formed ahead of last year's elections to fight for the rights of Israel's Palestinian minority, which accounts for more than a fifth of the population.

The alliance won 14 seats, in what its head, MK Ayman Odeh, described as "a historic day for the Arabs" and the Palestinians' "answer to racism and to those who want to exclude us."

Since October last year, there has been a surge in small-scale attacks carried out by Palestinians, many armed only with knives, resulting in the death of nearly 30 Israelis.

Nearly 170 Palestinians have been killed in the same period, the majority of whom Israel says were attempting to attack Israelis, although rights groups have disputed Israel's version of events in a number of cases.

According to the Israel Democracy Institute's Peace Index in October, around half of Israel's Palestinian population believe the attacks stem from "the Palestinians' despair over the lack of progress in talks on a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority."

However, the same index found that nearly three quarters of Israel's Jewish population reject that position.

On Thursday, Netanyahu visited an Israeli police officer who was wounded in an armed attack in Jerusalem a day earlier in which another Israeli officer was killed and three Palestinian attackers shot dead.

"We are in a very major effort against terrorism," Netanyahu said, adding that Palestinian acts of violence were part of an "Islamic terrorism" he claimed was "inundating the world."

Israel has sought to blame the recent violence on religious incitement through social media, while Palestinians have pointed to Israel's nearly 50-year military occupation of the Palestinian territory, no prospect of a political solution, and a deep sense of frustration and despair.
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