Hanin Zuabi (Balad) and Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi)
MKs Hanin Zuabi (Balad) and Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) at a committee meeting on Nov. 9, 2010. Photo by Emil Salman
Text size

Former MK Azmi Bishara (Balad ) will lose his state pension if a bill that the Knesset House Committee approved yesterday ultimately becomes law.

Bishara quit the Knesset after fleeing Israel in 2007 to avoid a criminal investigation into suspicions that he spied for Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Nevertheless, the state paid him NIS 200,000 in severance pay, and still pays him a monthly pension of NIS 7,248 for his years in the Knesset. Altogether, he has received about NIS 512,000 from the state since his resignation.

The bill, which was approved for first reading yesterday, is meant to end this.

"The bill stems from the absurdity that Israel's Knesset is paying former MK Bishara a monthly pension even though he has fled the country and is wanted for questioning on suspicion of serious crimes," said MK Yariv Levin (Likud ), who co-sponsored it with MK Israel Hasson (Kadima ).

The fact that Bishara allegedly used his position as an MK to betray the state and then fled rather than face a police investigation, yet still receives money from the state, is unacceptable, Levin added.

"I doubt any other country would tolerate it," he said.

Hasson agreed. "I don't know of any other country engaged in a conflict that would pay an agent in the enemy's service more than NIS 500,000," he said. "This bill is meant to correct this."

Bishara, who currently lives in Amman, Jordan, told Israeli associates that he intends to fight for what he termed his "fundamental right" to continue receiving the pension. He has consulted attorneys from Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and they plan to contest the law in court if it passes, as it is expected to, Haaretz has learned.

Adalah director Hassan Jabareen said the law was essentially theft, an unconstitutional violation of the Bishara family's property rights, and he plans to petition the High Court of Justice against it in the name of Bishara's wife and children.

At yesterday's committee session, MK Jamal Zahalka, who succeeded Bishara as Balad's chairman, responded to the bill with an ad hominem attack on Levin.

"You're a man of death, you're insane," he said. "Your hands are red with blood ... You're a fascist and a racist. You'd be accepted in any fascist party in the world," he said.

Levin promptly responded in kind: "You don't belong in Israel's Knesset. Someone who supports terror can't sit here."

On a more substantive level, Zahalka charged that legislation aimed at a specific individual is unacceptable. "People want revenge on Bishara," he said.

But Levin retorted that it would apply to any other MK in a similar situation.

Later, Zahalka issued a statement echoing Jabareen's constitutional argument and terming the bill one more in "a long list of racist laws submitted to the Knesset, which has an automatic majority for the approval of any law that harms Arabs."