Balad colleagues rally to Azmi Bishara's defense

MK Jamal Zahalka: What is happening is not just an attack against Balad, but against all Israeli Arab parties.

azmi bishara 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
azmi bishara 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Balad Party MKs defended MK Azmi Bishara Monday in light of his announcement Sunday that his resignation from the Knesset was not connected to the police investigation against him. Bishara's party colleagues said that he had been talking about leaving the Knesset for "several months" and that his current talk of resignation had been long anticipated by the party. "He had mentioned long ago that he wanted to resign and we convinced him to delay it; we also knew about this trip. The talk that he is 'running away' or that he is resigning out of fear is just part of the attack that is being launched against him," said MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad). "What is happening is not just an attack against our party, but against all the Israeli Arab parties," he added. Zahalka said that the party was waiting for Bishara to return to Israel to discuss the best time for his resignation, but had no idea when he might return. "These allegations against me are a planned assault," said Bishara during the interview. "I am under attack... and I was already feeling that I had reached the point in my parliamentary career where I could not go further." During the interview, which was filmed in Qatar's capital, Doha, Bishara blasted the rumors about his facing a possible indictment. On Sunday, Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court announced that Bishara was under investigation by police, but would not release any details of the investigation. "Let's say that you have a friend in another country, and you make phone calls to that person.. that is at the heart of these so-called investigations," said Bishara. Bishara also said that the reports that he had "fled" Israel in light of the police investigations were "completely false." "After 11 years I had reached my maximum capacity‚ as an MK... this trip had been prearranged; I am weighing my offers and examining job offers abroad," said Bishara. At one point in the interview, the Al-Jazeera anchor suggested that the MK might consider becoming a commentator on the program. "Perhaps, I will consider it along with other suggestions that have been raised with me on this trip," said Bishara. Meanwhile, a lawyer who petitioned the High Court of Justice to dissolve Bishara's Balad Party said Monday the same Attorney-General's Office which now opposed the move was one that had defended the 16th Knesset Elections Committee when the committee voted to bar Balad from running in 2003. On Sunday, the state submitted its response to the petition, declaring that "at this stage, there is no reason to ask the court to dissolve the Balad Party." The state's representative, Yochi Gnessin, wrote that the High Court had already ruled twice in the past that Balad should not be prohibited from running in the elections. If in the meantime, she added, the party had changed its character and there were now reasons to bar it from the Knesset, these should be considered before the next election and not in the middle of a term for which it had already been allowed to run. The petitioner, Ophir Miller, accused Bishara and his two faction colleagues, Jamal Zahalka and Wasil Taha, of visiting Syria and Lebanon during the war and making statements in violation of the criminal code, the Emergency Defense Regulations and the Parliamentary Immunity Law. Miller wrote that "according to televised interviews by various media outlets, the MKs were heard warning the top echelon of Syria's leadership of the possibility that 'Israel will launch a preemptive attack in more than one place in order to overcome the internal crisis it is undergoing and to try to recover, even if only a bit, its deterrent capacity.' They were also heard praising Hizbullah for its victory over the State of Israel." No date has yet been set for the hearing. Miller said that by time it was held, perhaps the court would lift the gag order on the new, and still secret, allegations that police were currently investigating regarding Bishara. "That could help my chances," he told The Jerusalem Post.