Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani: His tiny country has long punched above its weight.
(photo credit: ASMAA WAGUIH / REUTERS)
Balad should no longer be allowed in the Knesset and its MKs should be investigated for visiting Hamas sponsor country Qatar, right-wing MKs said Monday.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said "only in Israel can you have legislators and terrorists in the same party."
On Sunday, a Balad spokesman said the party's three MKs, Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Bassel Ghattas, went to Qatar for media appearances, though they appeared on the Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera several times from Israel in recent weeks.
The spokesman also did not confirm or deny reports they met with Balad founder Azmi Bishara, who fled from Israel and resigned from the Knesset in 2007 as he was under investigation for giving information to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War.
Katz said that he amended the law to make it illegal for people who support terrorism to run for the Knesset and he had Bishara and Balad banned from running, via the Central Election Committee, but the Supreme Court overturned the vote.
"I am now preparing a new petition against Zoabi and Balad and I hope the Supreme Court won't intervene this time," he added.
Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud) wrote a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein asking that he investigate the MKs' visit to Qatar and ban their party.
"It is the right thing to do to investigate MKs Zahalke, Zoabi and Ghattas who traveled to the land of terrorism, especially when we know that all of the terrorism is funded by Qatar's leaders and that the heads of Hamas live in Qatar, where they are defended," Regev wrote.
"There is legal precedent for this in Israel. We cannot forget former MK Bishara, who was a traitor to the state and lived in Qatar, the shelter for terrorists," Regev added.
MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beytenu) said he plans to complain to the Knesset Ethics Committee about the Balad MKs, in order to examine who paid for their trip to Qatar.
On Sunday, the Balad spokesman said the MKs paid for their own trip.
"Three Balad MKs visiting the terrorism sponsor Qatar, which funds Hamas, and their meeting with the fugitive spy Azmi Bishara, is further proof of their activity that is hostile to the State of Israel, which they are supposed to represent," Miller said.
Miller added: "If Zahalka and his partners are looking to meet with their spiritual leader Azmi Bishara, they should stay with him in Qatar and save us the theater of the absurd that they run in Israel."
MK Yifat Kariv also petitioned the Ethics Committee to ask who funded the trip and whether they received the necessary authorization for an MK to travel abroad. When an MK asks for the authorization, he or she would have to write who is paying and the purpose of the travel.
"If they did not ask for authorization and chose to ignore Knesset regulations and trample the rules of Israel democracy," Kariv wrote, "this committee must meet immediately to discuss the matter and whether to remove their [parliamentary] immunity and use all sanctions possible against the MKs."
Last month, the Ethics Committee banned Zoabi from all parliamentary activity except voting for six months, following comments she made supporting Hamas attacks on Israel.
MK Danny Danon (Likud) wrote on Facebook: "Zahalka, Zoabi and Bishara met in Qatar. That's not the beginning of a joke. That really happened!"
Danon added that he assumes that, since Qatar sponsors Hamas, "the three didn't talk about strengthening the Zionist enterprise."
The Likud MK vowed to continue trying to ban "extensions of Hamas and Hezbollah" from the Knesset.