‘Bishara bill’ passes Knesset panel

Legislation now goes to plenum for second, third vote.

In the latest of a series of bills in response to the 2007 scandal involving then-Balad chairman Azmi Bishara, the House Committee voted on Tuesday to advance to its final readings a measure that would allow the committee to revoke the salary of any MK who fails to report for questioning when summoned by the police.
The bill, sponsored by MKs Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) and Yariv Levin (Likud) and cosponsored by a number of lawmakers, would empower the House Committee to vote to deny the salary, pension payment, and any additional payments paid to a current or former MK.
According to the draft, 10 legislators would have to request – and the attorney-general would have to notify the government – that the MK in question is suspected of committing an offense that could result in 10 or more years’ imprisonment, that the offense was carried out while serving in the Knesset, and that the MK had failed to report for legal proceedings including investigation, trial or sentencing.
The House Committee would then be required to allow the MK to present his side before any decision is made. The invitation to the hearing, the bill determines, would be published on the Knesset’s website as well as delivered in a message to the MK.
If the attorney-general announces that the conditions regarding the MK have changed, the MK could ask that the committee reverse any decision it had made.
“There is no choice but to put an end to this absurd situation in which a former MK [Bishara] has fled out of fear of judgment to an enemy state, and at the same time continues to receive thousands of shekels in pension payments from Israeli taxpayers every month,” Levin said.
On April 22, 2007, Bishara resigned from the Knesset via the embassy in Cairo, following a police investigation into his foreign contacts, and accusations of aiding the enemy during wartime, passing information on to the enemy and contacts with a foreign agent, as well as laundering money received from foreign sources.
Incumbent Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka said on Tuesday that “the desire for revenge has overcome democracy. This bill is neither democratic nor constitutional.”
“MKs, hungry for vengeance, trampled property rights and the separation of powers,” he said. “The committee has approved a bill that would turn the Knesset into a prosecutor, judge and executor.”
Although both Meretz and Hadash tried to make changes to the bill, they did not succeed, and it easily passed its final votes in committee by a vote of eight to one, with only Meretz chairman Haim Oron voting against the legislation.
The bill will now be brought to the plenum floor for its second and third/final readings which, given its broad support in committee, will likely see the bill become law.