Interior Minister Roni Bar-On on Sunday called on Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to recall the passports of three Arabs lawmakers who visited Syria without seeking permission from the government.

At Bar-On's request, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered a criminal investigation be opened against Balad MKs Azmi Bashara, Jamal Zahalka and Wassel Taha over their recent visit to Syria.

Bar-On called the trip a criminal offense and said all steps should be taken to try the MKs and stop "this shamelful phenomenon." He also asked Mazuz to allow him to restrict the international travels of the three MKs.

This was the first time in five years Balad MKs have organized a trip to Syria. After Bashara's last trip in 2001, the Knesset passed a law forbidding MKs from visiting any enemy state.

The MKs said their trip had been an expression of the importance of maintaining positive ties between Arabs in Israel with Syria, especially during periods of war.

Zahalka said the visit had been "for the sake of the rights of Arabs in Israel to maintain relations with Arab nations," and had been intended to show solidarity with the Lebanese people. "We are friends of Syria and we will continue to maintain ties with her on a national level, as is our known stance," Bashara told the Syrian news agency Sana.