PM takes podium and responds to MK Zahalke who says “We [Arabs] were here before you and we’ll be here after you.”
Arabs were not in Israel before the Jewish people, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asserted early Thursday morning before the Knesset vote on the Referendum Bill.
The bill passed in its first reading with 66 MKs in favor and 45 opposed. The legislation reinforces existing law by making it a basic law, which means it would have constitutional status in the eyes of the Supreme Court. The current law requires a referendum on any concession of sovereign territory, in a peace treaty or as a unilateral move. Sovereign territory does not include West Bank, but it includes all of Jerusalem and any land swaps.
During the debate, MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) said “the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel,” and MK Jamal Zahalke (Balad) responded: “We [Arabs] were here before you and we’ll be here after you.”
In an unusual move, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked to take the podium and said to Zahalke: “The first part isn’t true, and the second won’t be.”
Many MKs stood up and applauded, which is against the Knesset’s rules.
Soon after, Netanyahu posted the exchange on Facebook and twitter, and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett wrote on Facebook that he’s proud of Netanyahu.
“We were here first, because it says so in the Torah,” UTJ MK Moshe Gafni pointed out, and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who rarely agrees with Gafni on anything, shouted out “that’s right.”
Bennett impassionedly defended the Referendum Bill, which his party insisted be promoted by this week, and argued with opposition MKs who spoke out against it.
“You in Shas want to teach me about loving the Land of Israel? [MK] Arye Deri is scolding me? The Land of Israel was divided on your backs!” Bennett said incredulously, referring to the Oslo Accords.
The Bayit Yehudi leader added that he doesn’t understand why the Left is so concerned about a referendum if they think the nation wants two states for two nations.
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar spoke out in favor of the bill and accused Labor of hypocrisy, saying the party always supported referendums in the past.
“When a decision is made and we are on opposite sides, no one wants the final call to be made by deserters that are seduced by benefits,” Sa’ar added, referring to the way the Oslo Accords were approved by the Knesset.
Coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) said that the reason the existing Referendum Law needs to become a Basic Law is because of the Supreme Court’s “unprecedented invasion of the Knesset’s authority.”
“As one of the people who proposed this bill, I hope we will never have to use it,” he added.
Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Knesset Ofir Akunis, who cosponsored the original Referendum Bill in the last Knesset, said “a public issue that divides our society more than any other should be determined by the whole population. They will go to the polls and decide whether to accept an agreement the government reached.”
“Oslo II was passed because of a Mitsubishi [given to a new deputy minister]. The disengagement was authorized by the government only after two ministers who disagreed with then-prime minister Ariel Sharon were fired. We can’t have more tricks like this. The Referendum Bill will prevent them,” Akunis stated.
MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) said that “the Bayit Yehudi don’t want to let us reach an peace agreement and are looking for anyway to torpedo it.
According to MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash), the coalition is trying to create a “semi-fascist dictatorship.”
Expressing opposition to the bill from a different standpoint, MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) said “A referendum will legitimize removing Jews from their homes.”
Shas MK Avraham Michaeli added that a referendum is a “trick” and the Bayit Yehudi’s voters will not forgive the party.
“This is one of the saddest days in the history of Israeli democracy. I don’t trust you, and I don’t have any expectations from you,” MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) told ministers.
By Lahav Harkov
Courtesy of jpost.com