Quoting from Israel's criminal legislation at a meeting of the Knesset Golan Lobby on Monday, Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad (National Union-National Religious Party) said that relinquishing territory to Syria is a crime that
If it turns out that Olmert is discussing relinquishing the Golan Heights, Eldad said, then he should be charged with treason.
entails the death penalty.
Dozens of MKs and Golan Heights community leaders participated in the emergency meeting, called in the wake of last week's almost simultaneous announcements by Syrian officials and by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that negotiations were already underway with the Ba'athist dictatorship. Most Kadima party ministers, however, indicated their opposition to turning over the Golan Heights to Syria in any foreseeable deal.
"There is not a sane nation in the world that gives up the territory of its homeland," MK Eldad declared, in response to statements by senior politicians in the Kadima party in favor of relinquishing the Golan to Syria. "Whoever removes land from the State of Israel's sovereign territory is subject to the death penalty," Eldad explained, adding, "Giving away the Golan Heights to Syria is treason, and the punishment for a person who commits treason under Israeli law is death."
Eldad took the issue up with the Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, as well. He asked that Mazuz instruct the police to investigate Prime Minister Olmert's statements regarding his negotiations with Syria. If it turns out that Olmert is discussing relinquishing the Golan Heights, Eldad said, then he should be charged with treason.
The Relevant Law
In his statements on Monday, MK Eldad quoted a subsection of the law verbatim. The text of the law he referred to in part is as follows:
Section B: Treason
97 (a). A person who, with intent to violate the sovereignty of the state, commits an act that has the potential to violate the state's sovereignty is liable to life imprisonment or the death penalty.
97 (b). A person who, with intent that any area be withdrawn from the sovereignty of the state or placed under the sovereignty of a foreign state, commits an act that has the potential to bring this about is liable to life imprisonment or the death penalty...
100. A person who commits an act revealing any one of the intentions listed in sections 97, 98 or 99 is liable to ten years imprisonment.
Reactions to MK Eldad's Recitation
In reaction to MK Eldad's statements, far-left MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) said that he would file a complaint against the National Union MK with Attorney General Mazuz. Eldad's words "are reminiscent of the days before [former Prime Minister Yitzchak] Rabin was killed, and should not be heard," Cohen said.
The Golan was annexed to Israel in 1981 and thus falls under the territory defended by the penal code, Eldad responded. But Cohen dismissed Eldad's argument, claiming that it was "completely clear" that the law was meant to apply to private citizens, not to government officials conducting peace talks.
MK Ophir Pines (Labor) also requested that Mazuz open a criminal investigation into Eldad's statements. "MK Eldad uses words that kill," Pines said. "He is breaking the rules of the democratic game and he does not belong in the Knesset. After the murder of Rabin, it is not permissible for a public figure to incite and promote sedition."
MK Collette Avital (Labor) was also in favor of prosecuting MK Eldad. "The words of MK Eldad constitute incitement for its own sake," she said, suggesting that the Knesset Ethics Committee look into removing his parliamentary immunity.
Similar reactions were voiced by other MKs from Labor and Kadima, but not only from the left side of the political spectrum.
"Our sages already instructed us: 'Wise ones - watch what you say!'" -- MK Orlev
Opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) called on MK Eldad to rescind his statements, saying, "His words are unacceptable and unworthy. In a democracy, differences of opinion are decided at the polling booth and not in any other way."
MK Reuven Rivlin, also from the Likud, said, "Such expressions may bring about the destruction of the State of Israel."
MK Zevulun Orlev, head of the National Religious Party and a member of a factional coalition with Eldad's National Union party, also insisted that MK Eldad withdraw his statements: "Even though you depended on the treason clause of the criminal code, it is absolutely clear that your call is perceived - and may be understood - as justifying another political murder of a prime minister."
Noting that he is on the same side of the Golan issue as Eldad, Orlev warned, "Our sages already instructed us: 'Wise ones - watch what you say!'"
The Committee of Rabbis to Save Israel released a statement supporting Eldad's remarks: Eldad merely "stated the spirit and letter of Israeli law according to which a person who betrays his people and country must be brought to trial and face the death penalty." The committee further noted that Eldad's position is "what any sane citizen thinks of the prime minister and his cabinet who are lending support to the destruction of the Land of Israel."