Photo Credit: Yoav Kisch's Facebook page
MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), chairman of the Eretz Israel lobby

The Knesset House Committee on Wednesday held another meeting on the proposal to add to the Rules of Ethics for MKs a clause banning lawmakers from going on trips abroad that are paid for by organizations which delegitimize Israel.

During a meeting in May 2017, House Committee Chairman MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) requested that the clause include a ban on MKs’ trips abroad which are funded by organizations that reject Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state, incite to racism, support armed conflict by a terrorist organization or enemy country against Israel, call to boycott Israel or regions of Israel, as well as boycott Israeli products, academia or culture, seek to put Israelis on trial for war crimes, or deny the Holocaust.

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During Wednesday’s meeting, a new version of the proposal was presented, based on a list published by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs which includes some 20 boycott organizations whose members will not be permitted to enter Israel, in accordance with an amendment to the Entry into Israel Law.

According to MK Kisch, the list solves the problem presented during the previous meeting by the Knesset Ethics Committee, which argued at the time that it did not have the tools to determine which organizations should be allowed to sponsor MKs’ trips abroad and which should not.

“We cannot allow this theater of the absurd to continue,” MK Kisch said at the opening of Wednesday’s meeting. “It cannot be that an organization whose members are banned from entering Israel by law, because its activity harms this country, would be permitted to invite Members of the Knesset to visit it [abroad]. They want to hurt the State of Israel and Zionism, and they are using us as a tool and stamp of approval for their activity.”

MK Kisch clarified that MKs would not be barred from paying visits to these organizations, but only at their own expense.

Which likely would turn the current theater of the absurd into a run-of-the-mill farce, seeing as expenses can be reimbursed so many different ways, especially if one submits them abroad.

MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint Arab List) Arab List) said, “During this Knesset there is a continued effort to restrict Arab Knesset members and hinder their activity. Should the government, whose policy I oppose as a member of the opposition, determine which organizations will be able to fund my trip? The Ethics Committee will become a Marxist committee. I am against the occupation; I believe the settlements should be [dismantled], and I am in favor of the boycott. This is my political position.”

“When I traveled to a conference of one of these organizations, my lecture was about helping disabled Palestinian children. Does this bother you? When I spoke at a university in New York, I said much harsher things, so maybe you’ll prevent me from travelling altogether? This is the time to stop this slippery slope, at the end of which there will be two types of Knesset members – Jewish Knesset members with immunity, and Arab Knesset members with less immunity,” Tibi stated.

Ethics Committee Chairman MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) said the committee “has never examined the nature of these trips or what goes on there. That is not its job. We do make sure that there is no conflict of interest or perks.”

Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon said, “This is not a trivial revision, because until now the Ethics Committee has focused solely on examining the relationship between capital and government, not on examining the ideology or essence of the organization [which invites an MK]. But I am not raising a red flag here. The current version is much more focused than the version that was proposed in the previous meeting. The Ethics Committee does not have the tools to examine the essence and nature of the organizations [which invite MKs].”

“As for terror organizations, if we were to receive a focused, complete list from the Defense Minister, I don’t think there should be a problem, but when it comes to boycott organizations, it is more complicated,” Yinon added. “We can use the list the government stands behind in order to establish a guideline, but I believe that the Ethics Committee should be given discretion in exceptional cases, because there may be cases where the MK’s goal is to convince [an organization] not to boycott.”

MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenu) supported the proposed amendment, saying “the big lie disseminated in the world by BDS organizations is tantamount to political terrorism, and they receive the support of Knesset members. The Knesset must address this.”

MK Benny Begin, who normally marks the left boundary line of his Likud party, also voiced his support for the proposal and said the Ethics Committee should be given the authority not to approve an MK’s trip abroad if it is funded by an organization which calls to boycott Israel.

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