In a rare move, more than two-thirds of the Knesset House Committee got up and left the room Monday in protest of a bill to ban the northern branch of Israel's Islamic Movement.
The bill had been brought to the committee by MK Yisrael Katz (Likud), who wanted the committee to speed up the legislation process for the bill. At the prompting of Coalition Chairman Avigdor Itzhaki, however, more than two-thirds of the members got up and left, leaving only seven of the 25 MKs in the room.
Committee Chairwoman Ruhama Avraham (Kadima) was forced to stop the vote, since Knesset Bylaws dictate that at least nine MKs must be present for a vote.
Katz had previously been assured a majority for his bill among MKs from the Likud, NU-NRP, UTJ, Shas, and Israel Beiteinu parties. If the committee had chosen to speed up the legislation, it would have gone to a vote later this week. Itzhaki, however, warned Israel Beitenu MKs that if they supported the bill, he would punish them by delaying the appointment of MK Stas Misezhnikov (Israel Beiteinu) to the Finance Committee, a move the party has been seeking for some time.
"This bill is unconstitutional, extreme and racist, and no member of the coalition should support it," said Itzhaki.
Katz expressed outrage at the way in which the coalition MKs had rejected his bill, saying that they had been cowardly and acted like "thieves in the night."
"Avigdor [Itzhaki] has thrown himself in with the likes of [MK Ahmed] Tibi (UAL) just to show that he doesn't like my bill," said Katz. "This behavior is disrespectful to me and to the committee."
Katz's bill, which calls for the Islamic Movement to be named an "illegal group," would stop all legal fundraising for the movement and make it impossible for them to run in national or local elections. Katz said that the Islamic movement "incited anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish" sentiment. Katz added that he had been prompted to pen to the bill following the arrest of the leader of the movement, Raed Salah, for attacking policemen in a confrontation over controversial excavations near the Temple Mount compound.
"Just like Nasrallah became a hero after the Lebanon war, Salah became a hero in the eyes of Islamic extremists after his recent remarks and behavior," said Katz. "If we do not remove Salah from our midst, we will be building an Israeli Nasrallah with our own hands."