Green Light for 'Bishara Law'

Law would deny pension, benefits to an MK-turned-fugitive. Bishara has received over 500,000 shekels since fleeing the country.

Tags: Azmi Bishara
Gil Ronen , | updated: 10:56 AM

Azmi Bishara at the Israeli Knesset
Azmi Bishara at the Israeli Knesset
Israel news photo: Flash 90


The Knesset's House Committee voted Tuesday in favor of a bill that would prevent the transfer of a 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, or if charges have 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 next stage in approving the bill involves bringing it before the Knesset plenum for a first reading.
The bill is dubbed the “Bishara Law,” after former MK Azmi Bishara who fled Israel after the Shin Bet questioned him over espionage activity. 
The law was initiated by a group of MKs including Yariv Levin (Likud) and Yisrael Hasson (Kadima). Coalition Head MK Ze'ev Elkin said Tuesday after the vote: “It is unthinkable that an elected official would use his status and immunity in order to evade punishment for his deeds, and yet continue to receive a salary and pension at the taxpayer's expense... We in the Knesset know how to join forces between coalition and opposition in order to put an end to the attempts by some of the Arab Knesset members to use their privileges in order to hurt the State of Israel.”
Bishara, founder of the Balad party, has received 512,197 shekels from the state of Israel since he fled after being implicated in espionage for Hizbullah, daily Maariv reported Tuesday. 
Bishara tendered his letter of resignation from the Knesset to Israel's Consul in Egypt in April of 2007. At the time, he 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 Shin Bet has evidence that Bishara received hundreds of thousands of shekels from Hizbullah and other foreign bodies through Arab moneychangers in eastern Jerusalem. He is thus also suspected of money laundering.
Press reports at the time of Bishara's flight hinted broadly that Israeli authorities decided to let Bishara escape from Israel rather than arrest and try him. He continued to receive a pension because of a bureaucratic loophole that allows even a civil servant suspected of treason to receive payments from the state if he was never tried or convicted.