Bill advances to block state payments to Bishara

Former MK suspected of treason has already received over NIS 500,000.

November 9, 2010 14:15
3 minute read.
Bill advances to block state payments to Bishara

bishara 0107. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Amid impassioned rhetoric, the Knesset House Committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would block former MK Azmi Bishara (Balad) from receiving any more money from the state, after the MKs learned that since he fled the country over three years ago, he has received over NIS 500,000 in pension and “adjustment” payments.

The bill was passed unanimously after Arab MKs boycotted the vote, and will now be sent to the plenum for a first reading.

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Bishara fled the country rather than submit to police questioning after he was suspected of passing information to Hizbullah during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and then resigned from the Knesset.

Since then, the committee learned, he has received nearly NIS 200,000 to “adjust” to his post-Knesset life in various Arab countries, and a state pension of NIS 7,248 a month, which as a former MK he is meant to receive for life.

Should the “Bishara bill” be approved, pension payments will be denied to any serving or former MK who refuses to report to the police for questioning, to court, or to serve their sentences, on the condition that the crimes of which they are suspected or convicted carry a sentence of at least five years.

“Our bill establishes a principle that a legislator must respect law enforcement authorities. It is inconceivable that a person can enjoy this status, and mock the law enforcement agencies,” said MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima), who cosponsored the bill together with House Committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) and MK Moshe Matalon (Israel Beiteinu).

“I cannot think of many countries that are willing to make themselves into a joke,” added Hasson. “We are paying a Hizbullah agent NIS 512,000!” This is not the first bill to bear the name of the former Balad chairman. One such “Bishara Law,” passed in 2008, allows the Central Elections Committee to invalidate the candidacy of any would-be or serving MK who illegally visited an enemy state in the recent past.

More recent attempts to draft legislation to strip Bishara of his parliamentary benefits have hit legal obstacles, but the bill presented Tuesday seeks to overcome those hurdles.

MK Nahman Shai (Kadima) described the bill as “a necessary evil,” explaining that “it is difficult legally. The bill says that public servants are expected to adhere to higher standards of behavior.”

“This is a vengeful law, and on the way, you are trampling constitutional principles,” complained Bishara's successor, Balad chairman MK Jamal Zahalka during the heated debate in the House Committee.

“This is a serious assault on property rights, after the previous Knesset legal adviser submitted an opinion that pension is an integral part of one’s salary, and cannot be denied.

“The bill seeks to harm an individual, and personal legislation is forbidden,” continued Zahalka, arguing that the legislation was unnecessary as “Bishara told me that he is willing to give up his pension.”

After Zahalka argued that “I have never harmed so much as a fly in my life, but there are people sitting here whose hands are bathed in blood,” Levin snapped back that “people who want peace don’t participate in terror flotillas to Gaza. You have no place in the Knesset.”

The Balad chairman responded by calling the committee chairman “a spiritual midget and it is illegitimate that you are allowed to serve in this position. You are a person with no restraints. In order to get a place in Likud, you are willing to do anything. Someone should check your sanity. We represent democracy, and you represent fascism here – you are a fascist and a racist!”

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