Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh condemned the "racist attack of the Israeli establishment" against former Balad chairman Azmi Bishara. In a statement released Friday, Haniyeh said that the campaign against Bishara was proof of the "racist discrimination against the Palestinian people and the attempt to destroy its identity."
Column One: Bishara and the Old Guard
The PA prime minister added that his government sided with the former Arab-Israeli MK "who has supported the Palestinian people and the Palestinian issue."
Earlier Friday, Bishara said that a campaign was being conducted against him in order to frighten Israel's Arab citizens.
In an interview with a Nazareth-based Radio station, Bishara added that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service) wished to portray the Arab-Israelis as "spies who oppose democracy."
Bishara is suspected of providing assistance to an enemy in time of war, passing on information to the enemy, contact with a foreign agent, money-laundering violations and other crimes, according to a decision handed down Wednesday by the Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court.
According to the court's decision, Bishara is suspected of carrying out some of the alleged crimes during the Second Lebanon War.
Bishara told a French television channel Friday that he did not have any information to give to Hizbullah.
Nevertheless, he claimed that Hizbullah anyway had "more information about the IDF that it could have ever dreamed of."
Bishara, 50, who has not returned to Israel since he left three weeks ago, said Thursday that he would come back but he was waiting for the fuss over his foreign contacts to quiet down.
"My stay outside is temporary," Bishara said in a phone interview from Doha, Qatar.
"In the next few weeks, I am not thinking of surrendering to their rules," Bishara told The Associated Press. "Let's see what happens after the media campaign in Israel against me calms down, and they start to look at issues rationally."
The former Balad chairman went on to say that he did not consider himself a fugitive.
"I am not looking for political asylum, but for ways to go back," he said, adding that he had a house in Haifa, a rented apartment in Jerusalem where his wife comes from, and an office in Nazareth - his constituency.
No charges have yet been filed against Bishara.
"These are serious charges in their (Israeli) language," Bishara said. "Particularly because they refer to time of war. But they are against Azmi Bishara, who never fought anyone, except with words, articles and books."
Since joining parliament in 1996, Bishara has antagonized many Jewish Israelis by meeting with some of the country's bitterest enemies, including the leaders of Syria and Hizbullah.
He is a champion of equal rights for Israel's Arab minority. He also advocates replacing Israel with a binational state that would include citizenship for the 3.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.