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  • ACRI

Do Not Impeach Ofer Cassif from Knesset

On January 10, 2024, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana was served with a request to terminate the term of office of Member of Knesset (MK) Ofer Cassif, claiming that he supports an armed struggle against the State of Israel. The motion for impeachment focuses on Cassif's signature on a petition addressing the International Court of Justice in The Hague, stating that Israel's actions in Gaza violate international law, and calling for the court's intervention to "immediately stop the war." The request was initiated by MK Oded Forer and signed by more than 80 Knesset members.


On January 15, 2024, we sent legal correspondence (Hebrew) to the Knesset's Legal Advisor requesting that she instruct the Knesset Committee to reject the request to remove MK Cassif, without discussing it. In the petition, attorney Hagar Shechter argued that Cassif's signature on the petition is not in support of armed struggle against the State of Israel, since the petition does not call for armed struggle, but instead calls on the International Court of Justice in The Hague to use legal means to stop what the MK sees as a violation of international law. Support for international proceedings against Israel does not constitute as support for the armed struggle of Israel's enemies against it. Presenting it as such blurs the line between violence and diplomacy, and between peaceful struggle and armed struggle.


The petitioners argued that an interpretation, according to which opposition to the policy of warfare, or support for stopping crimes committed by a state in combat to the position of a MK, is equivalent to support for armed struggle, is an expansive interpretation exaggerated, and not a restrictive interpretation as required by the ruling, and in fact – will lead to the prevention of any elected official who raises allegations of war crimes from running for the Knesset and further risk impeachment. Such a situation cannot be accepted, since parliamentary criticism of the actions of the government and the army, including allegations of war crimes, is a central and essential part of the work of an elected official.


We asked that the motion for impeachment be dismissed, since the very existence of the impeachment process would cause a fatal blow to the freedom of political expression, which is the parliamentarian's main work tool, and would constitute an abuse of authority and abuse by the majority against the minority. Even if the motion is rejected at the end of the hearing, and the disqualification is invalidated by the court, the very initiation of the impeachment process creates a chilling effect on all those who hold a minority position, restricts parliamentary freedom of expression, encourages self-censorship of permissible and legitimate expression, and silences voices that do not fall within the political consensus. This violates the rights of both elected officials and voters.

 

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