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Attorney General Menachem Mazuz announced Sunday that he will investigate Knesset Members Azmi Bishara, Jamal Zahalka and Wasil Taha (National Democratic Assembly) for visiting Syria without government authorization.
Mazuz's investigation came at the request of Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, who called the trip a criminal offense and demanded that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni revoke the three MKs' passports.
"We must take all possible steps to stop this shameful phenomenon," said Bar-On.
Bar-On added that he was especially offended by Bishara's interview with a Syrian TV station, in which he said that Israel was planning a future war with Syria. The Interior Minister also called for the revocation of the MK's passports, while acknowledging that he, too, had the ability to do so after issuing an emergency order.
But Balad tried to downplay the significance of the recent visit: "This is not something that they didn't already know," said a Balad spokeswoman. "He was not passing along secret information. This whole thing has been blown out of proportion."
On Sunday, Mazuz's right-hand man, attorney Raz Nizri, contacted Israel Police's Head of Intelligence and Investigations, Cmdr. Yohanan Danino, to notify him of Mazuz's decision, to investigate the three under suspicion of illegally traveling to an enemy state.
Balad MKs Jamal Zahalka and Wasil Taha and former MKs Muhamad Kanan and Mohammed Miari arrived in Syria Thursday night for what they called a "friendly" visit with leaders of the Syrian government and spiritual leaders.
The MKs announced their intention to travel to Syria early last week, ignoring a Knesset law which bans political officials from traveling to enemy states. The law was passed in 2001 in the wake of Balad MK Azmi Bishara's trip to Syria. Last year, MK Talab el-Sana (Ra'am-Ta'al) was investigated on similar charges.
"It is our right and the right of Arabs in Israel to remain in contact with other Arab nations," said a Balad spokesman. He added that the MKs had planned to go to Syria two months ago, but put off the trip due to political tensions surrounding the war.
Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter blasted the trip Sunday while defending Mazuz's decision to recommend an investigation. "I wasn't surprised by the decision," the former Shin Bet chief told reporters. " Syria is still, without a doubt, an enemy country. This was a pathetic action that took cynical advantage of the current political situation."
Dichter, whose ministry is responsible for the Israel Police and law enforcement, said that he believed that "it is possible to create an appropriate discouragement that MKs will understand in the future" to prevent further such visits, but emphasized that even the Shin Bet cannot - without due process - prevent any citizen, and particularly an MK from leaving the country.
Knesset Member Otniel Schneller (Kadima) attacked the Balad MKs, and said that their immunity should be revoked in order for them to stand trial for supporting the enemy in wartime.
"It's not enough that Bishara is a traitor to the state of Israel, but he now betrays his Arab constituency, who are still licking their wounds from thousands of Syrian-made rockets," he said.
MK Zevulen Orlev (NU-NRP), who introduced legislature during the last Knesset session that would dismiss MKs who "associate" with terror organizations, said he would hasten work on that bill.
Orlev appealed to Chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Menahem Ben-Sasson, to convene an emergency session to discuss the bill.
MKs Avigdor Lieberman (ISrael Beitenu) and Aryeh Eldad (NU-NRP) also slammed the Balad MKs, and called for their resignation.