MKs Zahalka, Taha visit Syria [pg.2]

Right-wing lawmakers call for their resignation.

Lawmakers are calling for the resignation of the two Balad MKs who visited Syria over the weekend. "There is no difference between these trips and an act of espionage against the Jewish state," said MK Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of Israel Beiteinu. "They do not deserve to serve in the Knesset." Balad MKs Jamal Zahalka and Wasal Taha arrived in Syria Thursday night, accompanied by former legislators Muhammad Kana'an and Muhammad Miari, for what they called a "friendly" visit with Syrian governmental and religious leaders. "It is our right and the right of Arabs in Israel to remain in contact with other Arab nations," a Balad spokesman said. He said the MKs had planned to go to Syria two months ago, but had put off the trip due to "political tensions" surrounding the war in Lebanon. "Particularly now, after it has become clear to everyone that the policy of force has failed yet again and that unilateral moves have collapsed and disappeared, we must draw the conclusion that Israel has to adopt an approach of dialogue and negotiation, and to respond positively to Arab peace initiatives to arrive at a just peace that is comprehensive and sustainable," the group wrote in a statement. Early last week, the lawmakers announced their intention to travel to Syria, ignoring a law prohibiting political officials from traveling to enemy states. The law was passed in 2001 in the wake of a visit to Syria by Balad MK Azmi Bishara. MK Arye Eldad (NU-NRP) slammed the MKs, saying that Arab lawmakers were "not interested in the law." Their behavior was "intolerable," Eldad said. "They are bringing evil closer with their own hands, supporting the enemy and terror." He said that since no action had been taken against them for visiting enemy states in the past, there had been nothing to deter them from undertaking the most recent visit. In Syria, the Balad members expressed sympathy for the plight of the Lebanese people and said residents of both Lebanon and Israel were victims of the government's "policy of violence." They also said they were committed to working toward a sustainable peace between the countries.