Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Israel Police recommended that the state prosecution indict MKs Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Goumha Azbarga from Balad for corruption in their party regarding donations and expenditures in the 2013 and 2015 elections.
Police said in a statement that the felonies committed by the MKs have to do with moral offenses, fraud, money laundering, breach of trust and bribery. The statement said that police recommended that party officials – not only the three MKs – should be indicted as well.
“The Israel Police have finished a wide-scale investigation into the Balad Party and its senior officials, suspecting that they committed moral offenses,” the statement read.
“As part of the investigation, we questioned a large number of people – some of them under caution,” it added.
Balad is one of four parties that make up the Joint List alliance in the legislature.
The investigation was conducted by the anti-fraud police unit at Lahav 433, along with the economic division in the State’s Prosecution Office. The investigation looks into reports that were given to the state comptroller by the party regarding donations from the 2013 general elections and party expenditures from the 2015 general elections.
Police launched the investigation in September 2016. It was reported then that police suspected party officials of falsely representing the origin of millions of shekels obtained in Israel and abroad, used to finance party operations.
After announcing the recommendations, the police handed over the case to the state prosecution, which will decide whether to indict the legislators or not.
In response to the recommendations, the Balad party issued a reaction accusing the authorities of political persecution. “This a dangerous escalation in political persecution of the Arab public’s leaders,” the group said in a statement.
“Balad rejects the alleged suspicions against its members and activists. The police are trying to turn an administrative issue or one related to financial irregularities in elections campaigns into a criminal act in order to balance its recommendations against [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. Balad is confident that the accusations will be proven to be empty ones.”
The recommendations also attracted reactions from MKs who called to remove the Balad lawmakers from the legislature.
MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) said: “The Balad MKs are diligent people – they not only use their membership in the Knesset to incite, harm and undermine the State of Israel, to act to eliminate it, they also use it to forge documents and to hide donation money while they mislead the state comptroller.
“There are enough reasons to impeach Balad’s MKs from the Knesset. I hope that this time we will see these corrupt traitors being kicked out of the Knesset for good,” he added.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid used a softer tone and suggested that the MKs suspend themselves from office during the legal procedure.
“I call on these three MKs to suspend themselves from the Knesset in light of these severe suspicions and the police recommendation to indict them,” he wrote on Twitter.
“It is impossible that the Knesset will be the home of MKs who will soon be indicted for bribery and breach of trust. The Knesset is not a refuge for alleged criminals. Even if the there is no proper legal procedure [to do so], it would be right to impose these kinds of cross-party norms,” he said.