Right-wing Zionist MK sides with Arab minister after fiery Knesset drama

Issawi Frej of the left-wing Meretz party found a surprising ally in Religious Zionist Betzalel Smotrich, who tweeted a statement supporting the Arab lawmaker after the drama.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej of the left-wing Meretz party blasted MKs from the Arab Joint List party during a fiery Knesset session on Wednesday, accusing them of weaponizing an incident, which he said personally affected his family, for political gain.

The drama started when the Knesset overwhelmingly voted to reject a bill backed by the Joint List which would require Israeli schools to teach about the Kafr Qassem massacre and force the government to release classified military documents regarding the incident to the public.

Frej, who hails from Kafr Qassem, said official commemoration of the incident is an issue close to his heart, and accused the Joint List party of intentionally setting the bill up to fail in order to embarrass Arab members of the current government.

“I am so saddened, as a member of a family which lost a relative in the massacre. I grew up with this pain,” said Frej after the bill was defeated 93 to 12.

“The desire to get the state to accept its responsibility has followed me my entire life. It is the most important issue for my public work; ever since I was first elected to the Knesset I have tried to advance the bill we have before us…but we agreed to advance it in the Education Committee.”

He said that the Arab party is “trying to use our pain for petty internal politics.”

But when Joint List MK Aida Touma Suleiman  who sides with the Palestinians  and has defended terrorists, began heckling Frej, the lawmaker lost his cool.

“Shut up already! You should be ashamed,” he fired back. The scene quickly dissolved into a screaming match, and Frej was physically escorted away from the Knesset podium while continuing to shout at the Joint List MKs.

Visibly upset, Frej appeared shaky while drinking a glass of water and warned his opponents that “this isn’t over.” He was taken to the Knesset health clinic for medical observation, but was later released to his home.

Frej found a surprising ally in Betzalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionism party, who tweeted a statement supporting the Arab lawmaker after the drama.

“I have polar disagreements with him, but Issawi Frej is a [sincere] player…he supports Israel being a Jewish state, opposes terrorism, and even came to comfort the family of Reuven Shmerling, 14, from Elkana, who was murdered by a terrorist in his hometown of Kfar Qassem,” Smotrich wrote.

“[He is] the only Arab politician in the Knesset who truly works the good of his voters in the Arab sector and is not engaged in a national struggle against the State of Israel, like the supporters of anti-Zionist terrorism in the Ra’am and Joint List [parties].

“It does not take away from the sharp disagreements I have with him…[but] whoever accepts the rules of the game and the basic definitions of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is a partner in the debate. I called him now..to wish him good health.”