Israeli parliament to vote on expelling lawmaker over support for genocide case

A leftwing lawmaker from the Knesset supported South Africa's case before the International Court of Justice that accuses Israel of genocide in its war in Gaza

Reuters
Published : 31 Jan 2024, 01:43 PM
Updated : 31 Jan 2024, 01:43 PM

An Israeli parliamentary committee backed a motion on Tuesday to expel a leftwing lawmaker from the Knesset over his support for South Africa's case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that accuses Israel of genocide in its war in Gaza. 

A vote to impeach Ofer Cassif, from the communist Hadash party which sits in a joint list with the left-wing Arab Ta'al party, will now be held in a full sitting of the Knesset, where it will require 90 members of the 120-seat assembly to pass. A date for the vote has not been fixed. 

In its ruling last week, the ICJ ordered Israel to take action to prevent acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip but stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire.

South Africa's case drew a furious reaction across the political spectrum in Israel and Cassif faced accusations of treason over his support for it. 

Even if the Knesset approves the expulsion of Cassif, the Supreme Court could still overturn the vote but the case underscored the deep bitterness over the accusations of genocide, which Israeli President Isaac Herzog described as "atrocious and preposterous". 

In a fiery two-day sitting of the Knesset House committee on Wednesday, members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud party traded insults with Cassif's supporters, who condemned the motion as anti-democratic.

Contacted by Reuters, Cassif declined to be interviewed but a statement from his party chairman accused Netanyahu's government of taking a step towards a "coup d'etat". 

In an interview with the left-wing Democracy Now outlet this month, Cassif said claims that he supported Hamas' attack on Israel, which he condemned as a "massacre", were a lie but said he opposed the war in Gaza and Netanyahu's government. 

Surveys indicate that support for the war remains high among an Israeli public deeply traumatised by the cross-border attack by Hamas-led gunmen from the Gaza Strip that killed around 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies. 

Israel's own response, a relentless bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza that has killed almost 27,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities, has drawn bitter criticism of Israel around the world and prompted calls for restraint even from its closest ally, the United States.