The Central Elections Committee voted on Wednesday to ban Arab Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi from the upcoming elections. Nineteen committee members voted in favor of disqualifying Zoabi, nine opposed and one member abstained. Zoabi's disqualification will automatically be referred to the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to discuss it next week.
"This decision is marred by illegitimacy and the trampling of basic democratic rights," Zoabi said after the vote, adding that the committee members "blatantly dismissed the attorney general's professional opinion, which stated there were no legal grounds for disqualification."
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Likud MK Ofir Akunis, who submitted the request to disqualify Zoabi, welcomed the committee's decision. "MK Zoabi clearly violated the Basic Law: The Knesset when she took part in the Marmara terror attack, and she therefore has no place in the Knesset. Israeli democracy needs to know when to defend itself from those who are trying to destroy it from within. I hope and believe the disqualification will be affirmed in the Supreme Court."
The Maramara was a Turkish vessel that was raided by Israeli commandoes as it was heading to the Gaza Strip in violation of Israel's naval blockade of the coastal enclave.
The proposals to disqualify Arab parties Balad and United Arab List-Ta'al were not accepted by the committee. Committee members from Shas voted against the proposal to disqualify United Arab List-Ta'al from the upcoming elections, while the Likud members abstained. A total of 17 committee members opposed and seven voted in favor of the proposal. Thirteen committee members voted in favor of banning Balad, but 16 members opposed the proposal.
Prior to the voting, the debate was interrupted by a heated argument, during which Knesset security guards protected MK Ahmad Tibi.
"This committee is comprised of seventh-rate politicians, most of whom are looking to grab headlines," Tibi said. "You are fascists," he told the committee members. One committee member replied: "Let's see you talk this way in Syria."
MK Yuval Zellner of Kadima said he was in favor of Zoabi's disqualification because she "chose a militant and foolish line. She focused on marginal issues that contribute nothing to Jewish-Arab relations in Israel."
Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz said he was against banning Zoabi. "If we would disqualify all those who disgust us, most of us wouldn't be here. In my opinion, (Zoabi) should not have been on the Marmara. It was a serious mistake. But there is criminal law in Israel, and the attorney general determined that she should not be prosecuted due to a lack of substantial evidence," he said.
"This is a slippery slope, and banning MKs and factions based on their politics is at the bottom of this slope."
Telem Yahav is a Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent