Gov't OKs 'Bishara Law'

Law would prevent payment of salary and pension to a Knesset Member who is wanted for a serious offense but fails to show up for questioning.

Tags: Azmi Bishara
Gil Ronen , | updated: 7:22 PM

Azmi Bishara playing the role Israeli Knesset
Azmi Bishara playing the role Israeli Knesset
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved Sunday a bill that would cause the State to cease payment of salary, pension and other benefits to a Knesset member or former MK who is wanted for a serious offense but does not show up for questioning. The law has been dubbed the “Bishara Law” because it is seen as primarily intended to stop the flow of shekels to former MK Azmi Bishara.

Bishara left Israel in April 2007 and resigned from the Knesset. It then turned out that he had been under a police and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) investigation, for aiding Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War. A loophole in the law has enabled him to continue to collect his pension despite his apparent involvement in treasonous activity. It is this loophole that the law seeks to fill.

Once the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approves a bill, its chances of passing in the Knesset are deemed high. The bill received the support of ministers Daniel Hershkowitz (Jewish Home), Yaakov Mergi (Shas), Meshulam Nahari (Shas) and Yitzchak Aharonovich (Israel Our Home). Minister Gideon Saar (Likud) abstained. Minister Yitzchak Herzog (Labor) and Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman opposed it.

Ne'eman asked the committee to postpone its vote on the bill to a later date but Hershkowitz insisted that the vote be held. “The State funding traitors? This is absurd,” Hershkowitz said.

MK Yariv Levin (Likud), one of the bill's initiators, said that “treason against the State of Israel has become a lucrative business, which gives the traitor Bishara thousands of shekels every month.”

Levin added: "The absurdity that enables Bishara to connect with terror groups and aid them while receiving funding from the State of Israel angers any loyal citizen and we must put an end to this unbearable situation. This is a step that any democracy needs to take against those who would use the state's resources to destroy it.”

The law would also deny payments to MKs charged with or convicted of serious offenses carried out during their terms of office, and who fail to show up for their trial or sentence. For the MK to be denied his rights, the offenses involved would have to be serious enough to be punishable by five years or more in jail. The process of stripping an MK of his rights would also require the approval of the Attorney General and the Knesset's House Committee. 

Bishara spends most of his time in Arab countries and is an occasional guest on television shows. The Knesset website still contains a page devoted to him, which does not mention the ignominious circumstances of his departure from Israel.