Former Balad MK Azmi Bishara.
(photo credit: TWITTER)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that soccer club Ahi Nazareth should be disqualified from playing in Wednesday evening's State Cup semifinal match against Maccabi Tel Aviv amid the team's plans to hold a ceremony honoring fugitive former Balad MK Azmi Bishara.
The ceremony shows that Ahi Nazareth "is not worthy of representing the state of Israel in any tournament," Liberman said.
Bishara founded Balad and was an MK in the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th Knessets.
He fled Israel in 2007 while under investigation for passing information to Hezbollah during the previous year’s Second Lebanon War. He currently resides in Doha, where he is the director of a think tank and is reportedly close to Qatar’s royal family, a major sponsor of Hamas.
"There is no place in the State Cup for a team that identifies with a traitor who fled the country, and thanks him and thanks a country [Qatar] that funds terror against Israel," Liberman said.
Liberman referred to the ceremony for Bishara as "a nationalist provocation that seeks to stir up the atmosphere before they arrive at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem and a team like this is worthy of competing for the inciters and subversives cup, not the State Cup of Israel."
The ceremony was set to take place at a hotel prior to the game on Wednesday, and is being held in order to win Qatari funding for the team, according to an Army Radio report.
The Jewish players on Ahi Nazareth intend to boycott the ceremony, Army Radio added.
Another Israeli Arab soccer team, Bnei Sakhnin, caused an uproar when they held a ceremony honoring Bishara in October
.Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.