Israel suspends three Palestinian MPs from Knesset

Israel suspends three Palestinian MPs from Knesset
3 min read
09 February, 2016
Israel temporarily suspended three Palestinian lawmakers from parliament on Monday after they met with families of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces.
The MPs lobbied for Israel to release the bodies of dead Palestinians [AFP]

Israel's government on Monday temporarily suspended three Palestinian lawmakers who met with families of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces.

The parliamentarians, Hanin Zoabi, Basel Ghattas and Jamal Zahalka, met the Palestinian families last week to help lobby for the release of some of their relatives' bodies that are being held by Israeli authorities.

The meetings stoked outrage in Israel where many Israelis view Palestinians killed by security forces as "terrorists".

Parliament spokesman Yotam Yakir released a statement saying Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas will be suspended from parliament meetings and committees for four months and Jamal Zahalka for two months.

He said they will still be able to vote in those platforms. The decision came after a meeting of parliament's Ethic Committee.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at them earlier in parliament, saying they had crossed every acceptable boundary in a democratic country.

The MPs are part of the Joint List, an alliance of Palestinian-backed parties. A statement from the bloc circulated to Israeli media condemned the decision.

We know we are paying a political price for an ethical position.
Jamal Zahalka MP

"The vengeful punishment will not deter us and we will continue to fight against policies of racism and fascism, and in favor of real equality and real democracy, that Netanyahu is trying with all his power to annihilate," it said.

It also said it would continue to demand the return of bodies.

"We know we are paying a political price for an ethical position," Jamal Zahalka told the Israeli news website Ynet.

He said his party, Balad, will approach international bodies about the suspension.

The parliamentarians have said they met with the families to help them get the bodies of their relatives released by Israeli authorities.

Israel is holding the bodies of suspected attackers and has handed others over to relatives, sometimes long after they were killed.

Palestinians consider the withholding of the bodies to be a form of collective punishment to the families of the dead.

Violence in the West Bank has seen 164 Palestinians and 26 Israelis killed since October.

On Sunday, a Sudanese man was shot dead after reportedly stabbing an Israeli soldier.

The three Palestinian lawmakers have angered Israelis before. Zoabi boycotted the playing of the national anthem when she was sworn into parliament and is active in promoting the rights of Palestinians.

Palestinians living inside Israel make up a fifth of the country's 8.4 million people. They often face discrimination and unfair treatment despite being citizens of Israel.

Also Monday, the government supported a bill that would allow a lawmaker to be suspended by a 90-vote majority in the 120-seat parliament.

The bill, which still needs to pass a series of readings to become law, would provide for the suspension of anyone whose behavior is deemed "unbecoming" for a parliamentarian.

Agencies contributed to this report