Bill against dissident MPs passes reading in Israel parliament


Jerusalem (AFP)

A controversial bill to suspend Israeli lawmakers who support "terrorism" and seen to target Arab parliamentarians on Monday passed a first reading in the Jewish state's parliament.

Fifty-nine lawmakers voted for the bill, while 53 were against it.

The draft law is widely seen as targeting the Arab-led bloc after three of its members met the families of Palestinian attackers.

The bloc counts 13 of parliament's 120 members, making it the Knesset's third-largest grouping.

The bill would give parliament the power to strip any lawmaker of the right to vote on draft legislation by a three-quarters majority.

It still needs to pass a second and third reading in the Knesset before becoming a law.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the bill will enable action against lawmakers "siding with terrorism".

But opposition lawmakers, rights groups and President Reuven Rivlin have warned of the potential for abuse.

In early February, three Arab Israeli lawmakers visited relatives of killed Palestinian assailants who were seeking to retrieve their bodies.

Violence since October has left 200 Palestinians and 28 Israelis dead, according to an AFP tally.

Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to the Israeli authorities.

Arab Israelis -- who represent about 18 percent of Israel's population -- are the descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948.