MK Basel Ghattas.
(photo credit: KOKO/POOL ISRAEL HAYOM)
The Knesset House Committee held its first discussion on the impeachment process of Joint List MK Basel Ghattas on Tuesday.
As expected, the committee did not vote on the measure, and it was decided to postpone the decision until next Monday. During the discussion, Deputy Attorney-General Raz Nizri told the panel that Ghattas has until Thursday to either accept or drop the suggested plea bargain he was offered.
Nizri did not go into details, but mentioned that this kind of deal will include the immediate resignation of Ghattas. “The plea bargain will include an article saying that he conducted a crime breaking the Fight Against Terrorism Law,” he said. “If he signs the deal, an indictment against him will be filed on Sunday. It will include his immediate resignation, a significant prison time – not just few months – and a large fine.”
Nizri added that the prosecution will demand also a moral turpitude that will prevent him from being elected to the Knesset seven years after his release from prison.
Ghattas, who is suspected of smuggling cellphones to security prisoners, did not attend the discussion.
House Committee Chairman MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) clarified that the legal procedure with Ghattas is different from the impeachment procedure at the Knesset, and that they both can move forward regardless.
If Ghattas refuses the plea bargain offer, the House Committee will have to gather the support of 75% of the panel in order to pass it to the plenum. There, 90 MKs will need to support the measure in order to impeach Ghattas.
Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon said that the MKs have the right to discuss the impeachment if they are convinced that Ghattas took part in terrorism acts, despite the fact that his trial has not started yet. Yinon also advised the Knesset to wait until a senior legal of security system figure confirms the fact that Ghattas’s acts were assisting terrorism.
Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who initiated the impeachment move, said that you don’t need to be a professional to understand that cellphones smuggling to security prisoners will be used for terrorism purposes.
“When we passed the Impeachment Law last summer I never thought that we would use it after such short period of time,” Elkin added. “But if anyone thinks that this law isn’t suitable for cases like this one, I am not sure for what is.”
Elkin said that he believes that most of the members of the Joint List are not supportive of Ghattas’s acts, but because they need to show their commitment to their voters, the must act like they do. “If the plenum vote were confidential, I am sure that also the Joint List MKs would vote in favor of the impeachment, and I also believe that Ghattas himself knows that deep down in his heart.”
In response to Elkin’s comments, MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) asked the panel to avoid making decisions before the legal procedure is done.
“He did not receive fair treatment,” said Tibi. “His parliamentary immunity was stripped in a quick procedure and then he was arrested.
Can you imagine doing it to a Jewish MK? I guess that someone here wants to see blood.” Tibi then added that in his opinion, impeachment if far worse than preventing a person to run for elections.
Reacting to Tibi, MK Oren Hazan (Likud), who kept interrupting him, said: “How can you not condemn his acts?” Throughout the discussion Hazan referred to Ghattas several times as “the terrorist.”