Ahead of Tuesday's debate in the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee, Israel Democracy Institute scholars sent committee members a policy paper and called on them to block the MK Suspension Bill, which they say "would twist the separation of powers in our democracy."
Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Dr. Amir Fuchs, who signed the policy statement, wrote that it is an unacceptable bill that grants the Knesset inappropriate powers.
"The Knesset does not have the judicial expertise, knowledge or necessary tools to determine facts. This bill proposes a fully-blown judicial process, including granting MKs the ability to punish other MKs for criminal acts," according to the statement.
In addition, the authors point out that the comparisons being made between the MK Suspension Bill and laws that exist in other countries are misleading and do not hold up under scrutiny. For example, in America, the Bill of Rights guarantees full and absolute freedom of expression. As a result, the sanction of expulsion cannot be imposed in reaction to written or oral statements alone—as countenanced by the Israeli proposal. Secondly, the American two-party system and two-thirds requirement effectively means that a representative or senator can be expelled only if members of his or her own party support the move. It is not possible, as would be the case in Israel, for the majority to expel a member or members of a minority party.
Kremnitzer and Fuchs explain that unlike the sanctions wielded by the Ethics Committee, this bill would grant Knesset members the power to remove completely the rights of their colleagues to vote. This would enable political witch hunts reminiscent of McCarthyism.
"Firing MKs from the Arab sector will legitimize those who claim there is political silencing and pursuit in the Israeli government," wrote Kremnitzer and Fuchs. "Therefore, as long as it is not a criminal act, it is better that Israeli society contain such opinions and strengthen Israeli democracy, rather than pushing forth such a bill, as angering and blood-boiling as these types of acts may be."
For interviews with Kremnitzer of Fuchs, please contact Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, Director of International Relations, at 050-718-9742.