'Bishara Law' passes first reading

Bill would disqualify for election Knesset candidates who've visited enemy states without permission.

azmi bishara 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
azmi bishara 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Even if he were to return to Israel tomorrow and be acquitted of the allegations against him, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that former MK Azmi Bishara would be able to run for Knesset ever again, thanks to a law that passed its first reading in the Knesset plenum Tuesday. "Finally the Knesset said what the majority of the Israeli public has been waiting for. With this law, we are beginning a process of returning self-respect to the nation and to the state," said MK Estherina Tartman (Israel Beiteinu) after the first reading passed successfully. The so-called Bishara Law, which would disqualify any candidate who has visited an enemy state without permission from being elected to the Knesset, passed its first plenum test by a vote of 63-16, with three abstentions. The bill, sponsored by MKs Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP) and Estherina Tartman, is actually an amendment to Basic Law: The Knesset, and as such, required a 61-vote majority in order to pass its first reading. "A visit by a political figure to an enemy state has only one possible interpretation: support for an enemy state, support for the armed struggle against Israel and support for terror organizations," said Orlev. "This bill is intended to ensure the loyalty of MKs toward the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," explained Orlev. The government officially supported the proposal, with most government ministers, including would-be Kadima successors to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz all voting in favor of the bill. But Olmert himself abstained from the vote, as did Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On and Kadima MK Shlomo Mula. MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) suggested that Olmert's abstention was an attempt to play to the sympathies of Arab voters. Among the opposition to the bill were MKs from Labor, Meretz and the Arab parties. "The face of the Knesset is the face of Estherina. Knessterina," railed MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL) against the bill. "This is a populist and McCarthyist bill. It is anti-democratic in its essence and will never withstand the test of the Supreme Court because there is no connection between the right to elect and be elected and a visit to any state, including those with which Israel is currently making contact toward a peace agreement." Tibi added that this was simply a further attempt to establish an Arab-free Knesset.