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Palestinian MKs may 'quit' if bill passed allowing Knesset to expel them

Feb. 29, 2016 7:23 P.M. (Updated: March 29, 2016 4:47 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- The head of the Joint Arab List, Ayman Odeh, warned Monday that he and other Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset may resign if a controversial bill allowing the Knesset to expel lawmakers was passed.

The draft bill, which was approved by the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Monday, could see lawmakers suspended from their duties if voted for by 90 MKs -- three quarters of Israel's lawmakers.

Palestinian MKs have slammed the bill, which they say is directed solely against them.

The bill was submitted to the constitutional committee after the Knesset's Ethics Committee suspended MKs Hanin Zoabi, Basel Ghattas and Jamal Zahalqa from their duties for several months after they visited the families of Palestinians who were killed while attacking Israelis.

During the Knesset's constitutional committee session on Monday, Odeh said the Knesset was "plotting" against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and if the bill was passed into law, Palestinian MKs would "quit the Knesset and leave it to the Jews alone."

He said Israel's politicians were in particular targeting members of his Balad party, despite their vocal opposition to the killing of Israeli civilians.

Odeh said Palestinian MKs had visited the families of slain Palestinian attackers for "official" purposes, and the visit should have been respected as such. He said Palestinian lawmakers were "elected by our people, not by the right wing in Israel."

Palestinian MK Ahmad Tibi reiterated Odeh's threat that the entire Joint List could "quit" if the Knesset passed the bill, which he said was a legislative equivalent of the right-wing slogan "death to Arabs."

Tibi added that "Arab MKs have not caused bloodshed," as opposed to “those whose hands are stained with blood and are openly proud of that fact," referring specifically to the right-wing Jewish Home's Naftali Bennet, who has in the past boasted about killing Palestinians.

The push against the Palestinian MKs has laid bare a deep rift in Israeli society, in which rights groups say Palestinians -- constituting a fifth of Israel's population -- have faced systematic exclusion for decades.

The Joint Arab List was formed last year when four Palestinian parties joined to fight for the rights of Israel's Palestinian minority, but they have faced staunch resistance from Israel's political establishment.

The latest efforts against Palestinian MKs have been personally led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in what critics have slammed as a "demagogic campaign."
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