Likud MK Supports Pension for Fugitive Arab MK

Likud Knesset Member Reuven Rivlin expressed his support on Monday for pension payments to fugitive former Israeli Arab MK Azmi Bishara.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 7/28/2008, 1:03 PM / Last Update: 7/28/2008, 2:31 PM

Israel News Photo: (file)

Likud Knesset Member Reuven Rivlin, a nationalist who fought the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza, is backing pension payments to former Israeli Arab Knesset Member Azmi Bishara, who fled the country to avoid facing charges of treason.

Bishara allegedly received several hundred thousand dollars from Hizbullah in exchange for delivering intelligence information during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. He was also in touch with intelligence agents from other unnamed countries.

The former Arab Balad party MK was to be charged with aiding the enemy in wartime, transmitting information to the enemy, contacting a foreign agent and money laundering.

MK Rivlin argued that Bishara is innocent until proven guilty and that revoking the pensions payments would "harm the foundations of democracy in the deeper sense of the word." Legislators have introduced bills calling for the revocation of monthly payments to Bishara, who fled to Qatar.

'It's a Mistake'
World Likud Movement leader Danny Danon was less than happy with the move, saying "I think it's a mistake. I was very disappointed to see my colleague do that. It's completely against the values of the Likud. I was campaigning to change that law a month ago."

Danon added that World Likud has filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking that it mandate the government to revoke the fugitive's citizenship, as well as to halt his pension.

"We also want to see the government confiscate his assets in the State of Israel, and to sue him. You're allowed to sue someone even if they have left the country," he pointed out, "and this would be a good first step."

The case will be heard before Supreme Court President Justice Dorit Beinisch on September 1 at 9:00 a.m.

Knesset Legal Counsel: Illegal to Deny Pension to Fugitive
A vociferous debate raged in the Knesset House Committee meeting a week ago over whether to bring three bills to the floor of the Knesset revoking Bishara's benefits.  According to an opinion written in a letter by Knesset legal counsel Nurit Elstein, Bishara, who is currently engaged in gathering forces against Israel, must still receive his pension as a former lawmaker.

Elstein wrote in a letter to the Knesset House Committee that the bills drafted to strip Bishara of the benefits due former lawmakers are probably illegal.

"Revoking one's right to receive pension funds, particularly after the employee retires, constitutes a severe infringement of ownership rights, which according to Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, cannot be violated," read the letter. "In addition, stripping employees of their rights in an imbalanced manner, as the bill proposes, hinders equality, which is recognized as a constitutional right.... We must remember that Bishara served as an MK for 11 years, was not convicted of a criminal offense and was not even indicted."

Azmi Bishara: Why He Fled From Justice
Bishara allegedly received envelopes full of cash, one of them containing $50,000 which he deposited in a Jordanian bank. Officials did not reveal from which country the money came.


In return for the cash, Bishara used his connections in Israel and with foreign countries to deliver intelligence information and to estimate government changes in policy during the Second Lebanon War.

Bishara Working Hard to Marshal Forces Against Israel
Since fleeing the country in April 2007, Bishara has been engaged in marshalling forces against Israel, including from within the Jewish State.

On July 17, the former Balad party chairman spoke via video conference to a Balad party youth convention from Qatar and warned his young audience to avoid any positive integration with Jews.

"National Service is an Israeli attempt to erase the psychological barrier teenagers have when it comes to serving in the IDF, thus trying to erase our identity," he said.