MK Bassel Ghattas.
(photo credit: KNESSET CHANNEL)
Balad MK Basel Ghattas is being investigated on suspicion of smuggling cellphones into Palestinian security prisoners. A date has not been set for the police questioning of Ghattas.
According to a Channel 2 report, Ghattas, a member of the Joint List, is suspected of smuggling phones to two Fatah prisoners in Ketziot Prison in the Negev. One of the prisoners is supposedly serving a 37-year sentence.
The police have decided to investigate Ghattas, for a matter that does not appear to be connected to the ongoing police fraud investigation of Balad party finances.
Regarding the Ghattas investigation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “If the suspicions against MK Ghattas are correct – then this is a serious offense against the security of the state and the citizens of Israel. Whoever harms state security should be severely punished and not allowed to serve in the Knesset.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman accused the Joint List of being “a list of spies and traitors,” and called for the citizenship of Ghattas and other Arab MKs to be revoked. “From Azmi Bishara to Basel Ghattas, representatives of the Marmara in Israel, Haneen Zoabi and other friends – we will continue to act so that not only will they not be part of the Israeli Knesset, but they will [also] not be citizens of Israel.”
Balad Secretary-General Mtanes Shehadeh responded that the accusation against Ghattas “is part of the political persecution against us.
Lieberman exploits every story to say that Balad must be expelled from the Knesset.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the suspicions against Ghattas are “very serious.”
“If he was not MK, he probably would be detained in light of the seriousness of the allegations,” Erdan said, calling for visits to Palestinian security prisoners by MKs to be banned.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) responded saying "all violations of state security, all cooperation with the enemy and all trading of state secrets and information, demands an immediate investigation by any means necessary. And if it becomes clear that the accusations are true, an uncompromising punishment must be given regardless of any connection to religion or ethnicity."
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said regarding the accusations against Balad MK Ghattas "These are serious suspicions. IF it turns out that MK Ghattas committed the offenses attribute to him, it must be dealt with great severity. It cannot be that an MK that serves the State of Israel undermines the countries and its citizens security."
In a statement released before the report, Balad accused the police of conducting a “campaign of political persecution to delegitimize the activities of the party and damage its image in the Arab public.”
Police suspect Balad officials of fraud, forgery and money laundering involving millions of shekels and attempts to conceal the source of illegal funds.
Police deny that the probe is politically motivated.