Israeli politicians from both the right and the left expressed pleasure at the announcement by Haneen Zoabi that she will not be running in the national elections being held April 9.
“After 10 full years, I thank everyone and I feel that the time has come to change the location, but not the way,” Zoabi said in a statement. She vowed that she would continue to work to “strengthen Balad’s model for a stronger Palestinian generation and a more determined struggle, in the belief that justice will be done.”
Balad is the Arab political party that advocates for the creation of a Palestinian state inside the borders of Israel.
“This is a moment when it is customary to conclude a period of self-examination and look into the future. I will not give myself a grade,” she said. “There were those who appreciated and even supported my actions and what I represented, and there were many more who hated and fought against me and my views.”
Some of her less popular views include her description of IDF soldiers as “murderers”. She also walked out of the Knesset plenum when Hatikva, the Israeli national anthem, was played during the swearing-in ceremony. Zoabi too part in Mava Marmilla flotilla that violated an IDF blockade of Gaza in 2010. IDF commandos who boarded the vessel were attacked and nine of the assailants who were Turkish nationals were killed.
In 2014, Zoabi justified the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers as a valid method for Palestinians to respond to the “occupation”. She stated that the murders were “not terrorists.” One month later she was investigated on charges of incitement and public disgrace and suspended from the Knesset for six months. During the ensuing Gaza war, Zoabi wrote an article justifying Hamas shooting rockets at civilian populations.
“Zoabi should have been expelled from the Knesset six years ago,” Science Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) said on Saturday.
Left-wing MK Yoel Hasson (Hatnua) was equally harsh.
“[Zoabi was] one of the more extreme voices in this Knesset, including in the eyes of the Arab public,” Hasson said. “Zoabi did everything she could to destroy coexistence in Israel and lent dangerous legitimacy to terrorism. It’s good that she’s gone, and she would do well to be more careful in her actions now that she has no [parliamentary] immunity to protect her. Goodbye and good riddance.”
“It’s good that a senior representative of the fifth column is leaving the Knesset,” MK Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beitenu) said in a tweet on Saturday. “I wish her all success in Gaza or Beirut.”
This was far more subdued than Liberman had been in June when he was reprimanded for referring to Zoabi as a “terrorist.”
Zoabi came in fifth in recent party elections and it is not expected that in the upcoming elections the party will receive more than the three seats it currently holds in the Knesset.
Last January, Israeli police recommended indictments be brought against three members of the Balad party including Zoabi for fraud and graft regarding donations the party received during the 2013 elections and party spending during the 2015 elections. The State Prosecution has yet to rule on the matter.