Historic vote to impeach MK Cassif fails

Only 85 out of the necessary 90 voted to oust the MK who had signed a petition saying Israel was committing genocide in Gaza.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A historic vote to impeach a member of Knesset failed Monday as only 85 out of the 90 necessary legislators supported the move. Twenty-four MKs were absent from the session and 11 voted against the motion.

Ofer Cassif, the only Jewish MK in the Arab Hadash-Ta’al faction, had signed a petition backing the South African December appeal to the International Court of Justice that accused Israel of committing genocide in its ongoing war against the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip.

The far left MK has long been known for his extreme statements in support of the Palestinian cause and against the government and IDF.  He has even gone so far as to call them Nazis, and his opponents on the far right of the political spectrum have called him a traitor to his people numerous times.

This particular move at a time of war infuriated Opposition MK Oded Forer of the Israel Beiteinu party, whose faction is right-wing on national security. He began the impeachment process based on the quasi-Constitutional Basic Law that states that an MK can be thrown out for “supporting armed struggle, by an enemy state or terrorist organization, against the State of Israel.”

Wrongfully accusing Israel of intentionally trying to wipe out ordinary Gazans, a Palestinian charge made since the war began, has no basis in fact.  In reality, the IDF goes to extraordinary lengths to try to protect civilians, and so this was tantamount to supporting Hamas, Forer argued.

“MK Cassif believes that our soldiers are war criminals,” he said from the podium prior to the vote. “He believes that those in the war cabinet are war criminals.”

“Vote for IDF soldiers, who are currently on the front, risking their lives” to defend Israel, he pleaded.

During the hours-long debate, Likud MK Ofir Katz, chairman of the Knesset House Committee, spoke for many when he said, “Ofer Cassif is a supporter of terror and praises shaheeds [Arabic for “martyr,” the term used for terrorists who die while attacking Jews]. Every minute that he is in the Israeli Knesset is a disgrace to us as a parliament and a country.”

Almost the entire coalition supported the motion, as did the whole Israel Beiteinu party. Other Opposition factions allowed their members to vote according to their conscience, and their parties were split. For example, while National Unity’s Gadi Eizenkot, a former chief of staff, and its head, former defense minister Benny Gantz, voted against impeachment, more right-wing party members Ze’ev Elkin and Gidon Saar voted for it.

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Yesh Atid had votes on both sides as well. Party head and Opposition leader Yair Lapid nixed the motion, writing afterward that this was not the right way to oust Cassif.

“I am disappointed that Avigdor Liberman and Israel Beiteinu prefer to gain credit through the use of IDF soldiers instead of removing him appropriately – canceling his immunity and bringing him up on charges,” he wrote.

The Arab MKs, who all supported Cassif, called the vote “racist,” and backed his contention during the debate that it was a “lie” that he backed “the armed struggle of Hamas,” as he had made clear his “strong opposition to the massacre” of October 7, when Hamas invaded Israel and slaughtered 1,200 people, including infants and the elderly.

He also defended his action that initiated the vote, saying that “The basis of my signature on the petition was casting doubt on the statements of the government of Israel about what is happening in Gaza. Similarly, the text of the petition itself does not claim genocide is being committed, only that the situation presented in the statement of claim will lead to genocide.”

“The petition essentially calls for the end of the fighting and bloodshed,” he added. “You can be angry at my signature, but there is no connection between that and supporting armed resistance.”

Legal adviser to the Knesset Sagit Afek had highly doubted if Cassif’s statements and actions were up to the impeachment standard of “clear and sharp” evidence that he “actively supported” armed struggle against Israel, when the matter was brought up last month in the Knesset House Committee.

It was assumed by proponents of the vote that if it had passed, the Supreme Court would have annulled the impeachment on that basis.