The Knesset Ethics Committee reprimanded two cabinet ministers on Monday, March 12, for branding lawmakers from the Joint List “terrorists” and “traitors.” The committee also acknowledged that the Joint List MKs had breached protocol when they disrupted US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset on January 22. MKs from the Joint List held up signs reading “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” during Pence’s speech to the Knesset.
The protest of the Joint List MKs was in response to US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In its decision, the committee warned Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Ze’ev Elkin, Minister for Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Protection, that they would face sanctions if they repeat their language, which was “not befitting political discourse.” Both far-right ministers are settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Liberman tweeted that the Joint List MKs “proved once again that they are representatives of terrorist organizations in the Knesset.” After the incident, Elkin tweeted that “the Joint List MKs are traitors.” He wrote that when the Joint List lawmakers “say that the moment the US stands with Israel rather than the Palestinian Authority it becomes an enemy, they are favoring the PA’s interest over the Israeli interest and that is treason.”
Several far-right MKs called on the Ethics Committee to investigate the actions of the Joint List lawmakers. In response, the Joint List called on the committee to rebuke the ushers for forcibly confiscating the signs and destroying them, and for using force to remove the MKs, who were already walking out. It also called for an investigation of the coalition MKs who called them “traitors.”
The Ethics Committee said Monday that “without doubt waving signs is a ‘serious disturbance’” and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein would have been within his rights to order the MKs removed from the plenum. However, the committee ruled that the ushers lacked authority to remove the signs or the MKs without explicit instruction from the speaker.
Given that the Joint List MKs were expelled from the plenum, including those members who did not breach protocol, the committee felt that no further action was necessary.
However, the committee wrote, “Regarding the expressions of ministers Elkin and Liberman, the Ethics Committee finds that these were inappropriate outbursts that have no place in political discourse. The committee wishes to warn that it there is any repetition of such outbursts the committee will consider sanctions against them.”