Arab MK Goes One Step Too Far

3 Arab MKs met with Hamas leaders, and one of the MKs now demands to visit the nuclear reactor in Dimona. His membership on the permanent Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee is now in doubt.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 10:54 AM

Taleb A-Sana, now in his fourth term as a Knesset Member, was appointed earlier this week as a member of the interim Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The committee will serve until a permanent one is decided upon by the not-yet formed government.

MK Chaim Ramon (Kadima), responsible for the temporary committee appointments, said today that he leans towards suspending A-Sana's membership, following the meeting with Hamas.

Ramon said he made a special gesture towards A-Sana's party, Raam-Taal, by allowing it to be represented on the temporary committee. "Generally," Ramon told Army Radio today, "only parties with 7 MKs are entitled to representation on this committee, while Raam-Taal only has 4. But I decided to make a special gesture towards the largest Arab party."

A-Sana's days on the committee may now be numbered. He and two other members of his party - party leader Ibrahim Tzartzour and Abbas Zakour, both of them Knesset rookies - met yesterday with Hamas leaders. The meeting was held in the home of Muhammed Abu Tir in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Tzur Baher. Calls have been made to have A-Sana removed from the committee, as a result.

Abu Tir is famous both for his orange-dyed beard and anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist stances. He spent nearly 25 years in Israeli prisons, on and off, for directing terror activities against Israel, including the attempted poisoning in the early 1990s of Israel's water supplies. He recently said that U.S. churches are secretly run by Jews who converted to Christianity with the intention of controlling religious Americans.

MK Effie Eitam (NU/NRP), a former high-ranking IDF general and a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, called on Ramon to distance A-Sana from the committee. "A Knesset Member who identifies with and supports the worst of Israel's enemies," Eitam said, "cannot be allowed to serve in a committee whose purpose is to assure Israel's security. I am greatly concerned that A-Sana will take negative advantage of the sensitive information that is revealed in the committee, and this will be detrimental to state security."

Ramon apparently agrees. "It is very grave for any citizen, Jew or Arab, to meet with a terrorist organization such as Hamas, which just a few days ago condoned the recent murderous terrorist attack in Tel Aviv," Ramon said today. "I believe it's even against the law. Certainly this is true for an MK; we want the 17th Knesset to be different than the 16th. I believe that action should be taken against him, and this will be checked in the [temporary] Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee."

Asked if A-Sana's meeting with Hamas leaders will preclude his becoming a permanent member of the committee, Ramon said he personally believes that it should. He added that in his opinion, "A-Sana's actions will not encourage other MKs to make efforts" towards facilitating his committee membership.

The MKs said they met with the Hamas leaders after the government revoked the latter's Jerusalem residency status following Monday's deadly terrorist attack. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz confirmed today that the government decision to do so was legal.

Jumping on the bandwagon, two MKs of the Arab Balad Party also visited with the Hamas leaders in Jerusalem today. They had planned to meet at the offices of the Jerusalem Affairs minister of the Palestinian Authority, but changed the venue to a home in an eastern Jerusalem village when they saw an Israeli Border Guard force nearby.

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Yuval Shteinitz (Likud) asked Temporary Knesset Speaker Shimon Peres to convene a temporary Knesset Ethics Committee. Shteinitz would like the new committee to rule that MK A-Sana may not take part in future Defense Committee sessions.

Though it appears that a majority of the committee is leaning towards removing A-Sana from the temporary committee, in accordance with a request from Eitam, some legal experts have said that no such sanctions can be taken.

This is the second time that an Arab MK has been appointed to the sensitive Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. In 1999, under Prime Minister Ehud Barak, MK Hashem Mahmeed of the United Arab List became a member. Mahmeed had previously called upon Arabs "not to suffice with stones" against Israeli soldiers, and later praised the Lebanese Hizbullah terrorist organization as a "national liberation movement of the first order." The Likud submitted a no-confidence motion against the government as a result of the decision, and then-Likud MK Gideon Ezra - now a candidate for Cabinet minister on behalf of Ramon's party, Kadima - said he would not sit on the committee with an Arab Knesset Member.

Several months later, while a committee member, Mahmeed said, "Israeli-Arabs must learn from Hizbullah how to fight for their lands, in the same way that Hizbullah forced Israel out of Lebanon." He was not removed from the committee, however.

Arab MK Ibrahim Tzartzour, head of the Raam-Taal party, told Army Radio's Amit Segal today that his meeting with Hamas was important in that it promotes dialogue and peace. Segal asked, "If A-Sana hears in the committee of a planned Israeli attack on Hamas, who can guarantee that in the name of this dialogue, he won't go and tell AbuTir about it?"

Tzartzour said, "This is a hypothetical and naive question... A-Sana is a distinguished MK who will only act in accordance with the law."

In the meanwhile, A-Sana has also demanded, by virtue of his membership on the committee, to visit the nuclear reactor in Dimona. "As a resident of the south," he said, "I am concerned about an ecological or safety incident at the reactor that might cost thousands of lives."

MK Ahmed Tibi, the only Raam-Taal MK who did not participate in the meeting with the Hamas terrorist parliamentarians, said, "The uproar against the meeting is not justified, and will not accept any punitive measures."