Daily Israel Report

‘Bishara Law’ Passes First Reading

Knesset approves first reading of a bill that would stop payment of salary to MKs who are suspected of serious crimes.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/14/2010, 5:14 AM / Last Update: 12/14/2010, 5:10 AM

Israel news photo

The Knesset approved on Monday the first reading of a bill that stops payment of salary, a pension, or other state payments to a serving MK or former MK if he is wanted for questioning for a serious crime that was carried out during his term in office.

The bill, which was initiated by a group of MKs headed by MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) and MK Yariv Levin (Likud), was approved by a majority of 23 to 9.

It is named the “Bishara Law” after former MK Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel after the ISA questioned him over espionage activity. He has continued to receive money from the state of Israel despite having fled the country after being implicated in espionage for Hizbullah.

Bishara was under investigation on suspicion of having contacted a Hizbullah agent in the course of the Second Lebanon War and providing information about strategic spots in Israel to fire missiles at. He was also recorded by Shin Bet agents telling the agent what the effect of enlarging the missiles' range beyond Haifa would have.

The bill, which was approved by the Knesset’s House Committee last month, would also prevent payments to a serving MK or former MK if charges have already been filed against him, or if he has been convicted, and if he has failed to show up for questioning, or for his trial, or for serving out the sentence. The law would apply to an offense which is punishable by five years' imprisonment or more which was committed while in office.

Currently, an MK can continue to receive payments from the State even if they are wanted for questioning or for trial and have failed to show up, as has been the case with Bishara. The initiators of the bill wrote that “the present situation causes a distortion, and as such a norm should be established by which public servants fulfill their commitment under the law and are subject to law enforcement. Sanctions should be taken against anyone, regardless of religion, race, sex, or nationality, who is suspected of violating the law.”

MK Yisrael Hasson said: “As far as I’m concerned, submitting this bill is one of my saddest moments as a citizen. An elected official who is a legislator and sets public norms is suspected of an offense punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison and decides not to make himself available for interrogation. He continues to receive benefits from the Knesset. It's a crazy situation, absurd and unacceptable. By what moral right do we face the public if we behave this way and betray the people who elected us? I'm only ashamed that I did not bring up the proposal earlier.”

Hasson added that Bishara “made cynical use of the law, contrary to what is expected from every legislator. He should be denied any benefit or payment from the Knesset as should any MK who behaves this way. I do not know any country that is in conflict and pays an agent who serves the enemy over 500 thousand NIS.”

MK Yariv Levin added that he is “determined to bring to an end the situation under which a betrayal of the State of Israel becomes a lucrative business which gives the traitor Azmi Bishara thousands of shekels every month. The absurd which allows Bishara to join terrorist organizations and assist them while receiving ongoing funding from the State of Israel irritates every citizen who is loyal to the state and it is up to us to put an end to this intolerable situation. It is a step that every democracy should take against those who seek to use state resources to destroy it.”