'Bishara bill' passes major hurdle in Knesset

Proposal aimed at denying pension to former MK suspected of passing information to Hizbullah raises tensions between Jewish, Arab MKs.

December 14, 2010 07:08
2 minute read.
Azmi Bishara

Bishara 58. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The Knesset on Monday passed the first reading of a bill that would block former MK Azmi Bishara (Balad) from receiving any more money from the state, after the MKs learned that since he fled the country over three years ago, he has received over NIS 500,000 in pension and “adjustment” payments.

The bill caused heated exchanges between Jewish and Arab Knesset members before passing by a margin of 23 to nine.

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The proposal was approved by the Knesset House Committee last month in a unanimous vote which was boycotted by Arab MKs.

Bishara fled the country rather than submit to police questioning after he was suspected of passing information to Hizbullah during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and then resigned from the Knesset.

Since then, the committee learned, he has received nearly NIS 200,000 to “adjust” to his post-Knesset life in various Arab countries, and a state pension of NIS 7,248 a month, which as a former MK he is meant to receive for life.

Should the “Bishara bill”  pass a second and third reading in the Knesset, pension payments will be denied to any serving or former MK who refuses to report to the police for questioning, to court, or to serve their sentences, on the condition that the crimes of which they are suspected or convicted carry a sentence of at least five years.

“Our bill establishes a principle that a legislator must respect law enforcement authorities. It is inconceivable that a person can enjoy this status, and mock the law enforcement agencies,” said MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima), who cosponsored the bill together with House Committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) and MK Moshe Matalon (Israel Beiteinu).

“I cannot think of many countries that are willing to make themselves into a joke,” added Hasson. “We are paying a Hizbullah agent NIS 512,000!” This is not the first bill to bear the name of the former Balad chairman. One such “Bishara Law,” passed in 2008, allows the Central Elections Committee to invalidate the candidacy of any would-be or serving MK who illegally visited an enemy state in the recent past.

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