Impeachment of Arab MK likely to proceed after indictment for aiding terrorists

Shortly after the Ghattas affair came to light, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin began collecting the requisite 70 MK signatures needed to begin impeachment proceedings.

January 5, 2017 15:56
2 minute read.
Basel Ghattas

Balad MK Basel Ghattas. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Impeachment proceedings for MK Bassel Ghattas (Joint List) are likely to move forward after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit summoned the lawmaker to a pre-indictment hearing Thursday, in light of his being caught on camera smuggling cell phones to terrorists in prison last month.

A Yesh Atid spokesman said the party would follow through on its promise to support Ghattas’ dismissal from the Knesset once he is indicted.

Shortly after the Ghattas affair came to light, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin began collecting the requisite 70 MK signatures needed to begin the impeachment proceedings. He had an easy time with coalition lawmakers, but still needed some opposition members to sign.

Elkin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly goaded Yesh Atid about its refusal to sign, saying party leader Yair Lapid was trying to fool the public, but is truly left-wing and leading a leftist party.

Lapid, however, said that he would only join the impeachment effort if it did not impede the legal proceedings, which a party spokesman later clarified meant that he would not do so before an indictment.

Once Elkin gathers the signatures, he can bring the petition to the Knesset House Committee, which will hold a hearing on whether or not to expel Ghattas from the Knesset. If the committee decides to impeach Ghattas, the full Knesset must then approve the decision with a three-fourths vote (90 MKs).

The Knesset already stripped Ghattas of his immunity from search and arrest, leading to his subsequent remand and house arrest, and the Knesset Ethics Committee suspended Ghattas of all Knesset activities but voting in the plenum for six months. However, he will continue to receive a salary from the Knesset during that time.

In December, Ghattas was caught on camera giving envelopes to security prisoners in the Ketziot prison, which contained documents, 12 cellphones,16 SIM cards and related equipment.

Mandelblit's move to indict Ghattas was confirmed in a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, and the Knesset House Committee chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud).

The Beersheba District Attorney’s Office has already charged Asad Daka, brother of one of the prisoners - convicted terrorist murderer Walid Daka - with illegal actions. Walid is serving a 37-year term for murdering IDF soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984.

Daka is suspected of acting as Ghattas' handler.

According to the indictment against Daka, on December 18 he met with Ghattas to give him the equipment. The meeting took place at a Dor Alon gas station on the north side of Route 6.

Daka gave Ghattas the equipment with instructions to smuggle them into his brother and security prisoner Basil Bizra, knowing that the purpose of smuggling the equipment was to endanger people's lives and national security.

Ghattas met with Daka and gave him various documents to smuggle within the prison. He then met with Bizra and gave him the cellphones and SIM cards to smuggle.

Both Daka and Bizra were caught by police by a standard search of their persons after meeting with Ghattas, searches which also led to the pending allegations against Ghattas.

Bizra is serving a 15-year sentence for terror-related activities. The case has ratcheted up tension between the Balad political party and authorities over whether Ghattas perpetrated a serious security offense or is being hunted by law enforcement as part of a crack-down on loud politicians among the country's Israeli-Arab minority. Staff contributed to this report.

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