Tibi downplays Beirut visit, slams Right

Says stopover was part of flight route from Yemen, says outcry over his visit "much ado about nothing."

tibi 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
tibi 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) on Thursday downplayed his visit to Lebanon the previous day, declaring it was nothing more than a half-hour stopover at the Beirut airport, but added that he would "travel to Lebanon whenever I decide to." He said his plans would not be "dictated by the shouting of the Right." Tibi said the stopover in Beirut was "part of the regular flight route from Yemen to Amman." He called the outcry over his visit "much ado about nothing." According to reports on Thursday morning, Tibi spent a short time at the airport on Wednesday, accompanied by three Arab journalists from Israel who had traveled with him in Yemen. Israel Radio reported that it was unknown whether he met or spoke with anyone while in Lebanon, which is classified as an enemy country. From Beirut, he flew on to Amman. As soon as the news trickled in of Tibi's brief stopover, right-wing MKs pounced on the incident, pointing out that only this week, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee had endorsed a bill that would seek to invalidate the candidacy of any MK or would-be MK who traveled to an enemy state without permission. "It is good that my law proposal exists," said MK Estherina Tartman (Israel Beiteinu) who, together with MK Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP), sponsored the bill. "Tibi would have been better off staying between Nasrallah's legs in Lebanon, since that is his natural place." Orlev added that "Tibi's disregard for the law requires us to speed up the legislation that will distance from the Knesset anybody who visits an enemy and - in doing so - supports terror." Tibi has been investigated in the past for visiting Lebanon. In a Knesset discussion on bills to ban MKs from traveling to enemy countries late last year, Tibi commented, "If I am invited [to an enemy state], I'll go despite the law. I am sure that a person who violates a law that is unjust - or whose conscience is completely clear and is willing to pay the price and be imprisoned in order to raise public awareness regarding injustice - is truly showing his respect for the highest values." The law was proposed after allegations of treason were made against former MK Azmi Bishara, who visited enemy states Lebanon and Syria. The police and Shin Bet looked into allegations that Bishara spied for Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War, providing targets and classified military information. Bishara was never arrested, as he resigned his post from overseas and has not returned to Israel since late 2007.