Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit instructs police to examine the possibility of taking disciplinary action against Balad MKs Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas, after the three met with the families of terrorists who attacked Israelis.
The meeting, held last week, began with a minute of silence in memory of the shahids (martyrs) - the terrorists - whose bodies have still not been returned by Israel, Palestinian media reported.
Attorney General Mandelblit will examine whether the meeting included displays of support in terrorism, which would warrant a criminal investigation by the police, or whether to keep the issue within the purview of the Knesset's Ethics Committee. The MKs, meanwhile, deny that they had any criminal intent.
Mandelblit's examination will focus on the fact the Balad party advertised the existence of the meeting on social media.
Legal officials said Saturday night that it is unlikely that a criminal investigation will follow, as the matter is one of unbecoming, provocative and insensitive conduct, which appears to be within the limits of free speech and the MKs' immunity. It seems that the MKs' immunity also covers the moment of silence at the meeting.
Mandelblit was instructed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday to examine what legal actions may be taken against the MKs.
The harshest punishment the Ethics Committee can impose is banning the MKs from parliamentary work for a period of up to six months, excluding voting.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein asked the public to file formal complaints to the Ethics Committee. Close to 200 complaints have been filed, and in an unprecedented action, Netanyahu and Edelstein also plan to file a harsh personal complaint against the three MKs.
“It is the right of anyone who was offended to turn to the Knesset for an inquiry,” Edelstein said, noting that the meeting was “a serious blow to the Israeli Knesset and the State of Israel.”
Meanwhile, at the Knesset, more and more calls have been made to revoke the immunity of the three MKs.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid on Saturday said that, ”the Balad party members use their parliamentary immunity to incite and support terrorism. There is no doubt that this is an abuse of their parliamentary immunity as Knesset members in a democratic country. We must not accept this.”
Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabai stated that he will not cooperate with Balad’s MKs in any Knesset activity, while Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, said that “the MKs belonging to Balad have gone off the path. I am saddened that in their way they decide to weaken the voices calling for peace and its supporters in Israel.”
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman mocked MKs and ministers “starting with the prime minister and downward, including the ministers from the Likud and Bayit Yehudi” who he said did not support his legislation proposals against Zoabi’s running for Knesset, and in a post on Facebook he even posted a picture of Netanyahu with the Arab MKs.
The Balad MKs claimed at the end of last week that they answered the families’ call to meet in order to discuss the ways to bring the bodies of their children to burial.
“We just met with the families to solve a human problem,” Ghattas said. “In our eyes. they are shahids. This is our culture. We are a people under occupation that is fighting for its freedom - anybody who is killed in order to be free of occupation is called a shahid.”
MK Zahalka claimed on Saturday that the meeting was not to offer their condolences, accusing the prime minister of incitement. “We went just to deal with the return of the bodies,” Zahalka told Yedioth Ahronoth.
He also claimed that “every meeting and gathering starts with a minute of silence to honor the Palestinian fallen, whoever they may be.”
Zahalka expressed regret that the meeting was made public, “we wanted to solve the problem, not to cash on anything.”
The Joint Arab List, of which the Balad members belong to, rejected the incitement and attacks against the MKs and called for the release of the bodies. “The meeting was intended to advance a humanitarian issue of the first degree. Burial of the dead, whoever they may be, is a humane and religious commandment in the three religions, and thus we are calling for the release of the bodies as soon as possible.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who is in charge of returning bodies of Palestinians from the West Bank, and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who is responsible for returning the bodies of Israeli Arabs living within the Green Line, disagree on whether or not to return terrorists’ bodies for burial.
Erdan supports delaying the return of the bodies in order to prevent the funerals from turning into displays of hatred and incitement for terror. Erdan conditions the return of the bodies in the families committing to hold a quiet and small funeral at night in exchange for a financial guarantee. On the other side of the divide, the IDF's policy is to return the bodies of terrorists to the Palestinians, claiming that holding them would only encourage unrest.