The Ethics Committee, headed by MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), issued on Monday a severe reprimand to MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List Faction, over comments he made in late February against MK Avi Dichter (Likud), a former director of the Shin Bet internal security service.
During a February 29 meeting of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on a bill that would allow 90 Knesset members — of the 120 in the House — to suspend colleagues for “unseemly behavior,” MK Odeh said ”There are people in this parliament who murdered Arabs with their own hands. There are people in this parliament who gave the orders to murder the leaders of the Palestinian people.”
Later, during an interview with Channel 2, Odeh said ”There are Shin Bet chiefs who gave the orders to murder the leaders of the Palestinian people… They sent the people to murder the leadership of the Palestinian people… Take Dichter, for instance. He sent the people who murdered [Yasser] Arafat and Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, and he is in the Knesset.”
MK Ayman Odeh (Photo: Itzik Harari)
Dichter subsequently filed a complaint and also appeared before the Ethics Committee along with MK Yaakov Perry (Yesh Atid), also a former Shin Bet chief. Dichter told the committee that in the television interview, Odeh had repeated the comments he made during the meeting of the Constitution Committee and that in his remarks Odeh essentially accused those who were involved in the killing of terrorists while serving in official positions on behalf of the state of being murderers.
MKs Perry, Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) and Omer Barlev (Zionist Camp) wrote in their complaint that they were ”very disappointed to find out that MK Odeh`s voice has joined the unpleasant voice of those who deteriorate the public discourse to the lowest level.”
MK Odeh told the Ethics Committee that his comments, while severe, were within the realm of the Knesset Members` broad freedom of political speech. He said ”hateful and inciting” remarks, much more severe than his, were frequently directed at him and members of his faction, including such phrases as ”Hamas` representatives in the Knesset” and ”terrorists.”
In its decision, the Ethic Committee said that ”even if Odeh disagrees with the `thwarting` policy or other measures employed by the Shin Bet to eradicate terror – and his criticism of [these measures] is legitimate – he does [not have a right], nor does any other Knesset Member, to call a person who acted on behalf of the state to protect its citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, a `murderer`.”