The Knesset late Tuesday night passed into law a bill that allows it to remove a sitting lawmaker from office. According to the so-called “Impeachment Law,” which passed by a 62 to 45 vote, the Knesset can oust a legislator for incitement to racism and support of armed struggle against the state—which many in Israel’s media have said makes the law all but tailor-made for the inequities of one MK — the vociferous Haneen Zoabi (Joint Arab List). Incidentally, since Zoabi’s own party members have already ousted her from a realistic spot for the next Knesset elections, it is doubtful the law will be employed any time soon.
Another obvious reason why the new law is unlikely to be used in the foreseeable future is the fact that it requires a majority of 90 lawmakers to launch expulsion proceedings, following which the votes of 70 out of the 120 MKs are required to oust a sitting legislator, and those votes must include 10 opposition lawmakers.
So the new law is all for show.
The vote itself Tuesday night was great parliamentary theater, as opposition MKs who had submitted hundreds of objections to the bill, which they were set to discuss into the wee hours, suddenly withdrew them in a hurry and demanded the vote be held immediately, when they realized that the 66-seat coalition did not have enough members present to pass the vote. But the coalition whips were not born yesterday, and they managed to filibuster the vote until enough lawmakers had been rustled in to guarantee a majority.
The filibuster method they used was perhaps less elegant than those late night readings of the Cat in the Hat by US Senators, but it was just as effective: Likud Minister Ze’ev Elkin stood at the podium and repeated the phrase: “Today it has become clear that the Labor party and Yesh Atid work for Haneen Zoabi. You should be ashamed of yourselves.” He just kept saying this mantra until enough coalition MKs had arrived.
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp) said about the new law: “There will be a big stain on the Knesset if we allow this law to pass.”
Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (HaBayit HaYehudi) opened the debate over the new law, saying, “The Knesset will no longer be a shroud for terrorism and racism. Members of the Knesset whose salary is paid by the state cannot use it to undermine the state’s foundations.” He added: “If there is an MK who is thinking of being involved with racism, I hope this law will deter him and we will not have to use it.”
Opposition MKs said the law itself was racist, targeting as it does an Arab House member, which would technically mean that MK Slomiansky could become the first target of the Dismissal Law, in an M. C. Escher-like serpentine of parliamentary cause and effect.
Under the law, an MK may not face impeachment proceedings during an election campaign, 180 days before Election Day.
The impeachment proceedings would begin with a request which shall be submitted to the Knesset Speaker. The Speaker will pass the request to the Knesset Committee for discussion. Approval of the request will require support from a three-quarter majority of the Knesset Committee members. After approval by the committee, the request shall be submitted for final approval by the Knesset plenum.JNi.Media