Parties across the board move to oust MK Ghattas from Knesset
With Yesh Atid pledging to throw its weight behind initiative to remove MK Ghattas following cellphone-smuggling scandal, and Isaac Herzog expected to give Zionist Union MKs a free hand in voting on the matter,the chances of Ghattas’s removal are vastly increased.
With the Isaac Herzog believed to have decided to give his party members a free hand in the vote at Knesset plenum on the matter, the required number for ousting Ghattas is expected to be attainted.
The law requires the signatures of 70 Knesset members, and after those are obtained by the bill's initiator, Minister Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), they will be submitted to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who will hand the request over to the Knesset's House Committee, where a majority of two-thirds of the committee members is needed.
In addition to the support of Yesh Atid, there are also two Zionist Union representatives in the Knesset House Committee: MK Yoel Hasson and Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, with the former saying on Monday morning that the two would support the move.
“Given the 70 signatures that will enable the beginning of the dismissal process for MK Basel Ghattas in the Knesset House Committee, I wish to state before you my stance on the law and the removal process,” wrote MK Hasson to committee chairman MK Yoav Kisch (Likud).
“The dismissal law from its origin is a bad law that did not need to be legislated. The law was born in sin and I am hopeful that the Knesset will manage to cancel it, to erase it from the law books of the State of Israel and legislate in its place a law that is more balanced and which will provide an answer to extreme cases like these,” he said.
However, Hasson continued, “in the complicated reality that has come about following the legislation of the law, combined with the case of MK Ghattas who exploited his position as an MK to harm the Knesset, the State of Israel and the respect for Israeli democracy, and with the support of more than 70 MKs for the request for MK Ghattas’s removal, I am forced to isolate the aforementioned case from the democratic principle that has been damaged with the law's approval.”
From the very opening of the investigation against Ghattas, Hasson continued, “numerous opportunities have been given to Ghattas to resign, opportunities that he chose not to take. For him, not resigning from the Knesset is a bargaining chip against the legal system, a chip he chooses to use despite the serious damage to the Knesset, to his constituents and the State of Israel.”
For its part, the Yesh Atid party promised that it would throw its weight behind the effort to boot Ghattas from the Knesset on the proviso that an indictment was issued against him. However, while the party’s signature was delayed and an indictment has not yet been submitted, it is now expected to put pen to paper.
After it is signed, the request will be transferred by MK Elkin to the Knesset House Committee chairman and will then be brought for approval before the committee in one reading only.
At this stage, at least 90 MKs will be required to approve it. With Yesh Atid’s support, and at least some from the Zionist Union, the chances of Ghattas’s immediate removal are significantly increased.
On Sunday night, Ghattas wrote a letter to MKs asking that they do not dismiss him from the Knesset. “The tenuous and false leaks by the police to the media are continuing,” he claimed.
“Within a few hours, a media lynch was carried out against me and the courts presented me as a terrorist or a terrorist collaborator, as someone who passed encrypted messages and instructions for an attack and communication equipment to ‘terror groups’ and of course, I had become a ‘national threat’ before they invited me to be questioned,” Ghattas continued.
“The lies and incitement reached an unacceptable peak when it was claimed that I ‘went into hiding’ and that I was avoiding investigation at a time when it was easy to get hold of me.”
In addition, Ghattas appealed to Yair Lapid via SMS not to sign the initiative for his removal, to which Lapid responded:
“Basel, I suggest that instead of this, you do yourself, your party, the Israeli Knesset and Israeli democracy a favor and immediately resign from the Knesset. If you don’t do so, we will sign the dismissal proposal.”