Former MK Azmi Bishara Wants to Return to Israel, but Fears Unfair Trial

Bishara, who fled to Qatar and is suspected of treason and espionage, gave a rare interview to local media.

Archive / Baz Ratner

Azmi Bishara, the former Knesset member who fled to Qatar amid allegations that he had passed information to Hezbollah in Lebanon, says he will not be returning to Israel in the near future because he will not get a fair trial here and he still feels persecuted by the defense establishment.

Speaking yesterday on Radio Ashams, which broadcasts from Nazareth, Bishara said that if it depended on him personally he would return to his homeland, friends and family but he does not see this happening in the foreseeable future. The program was aired to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the political party Balad, which Bishara founded, and which is today part of the Joint Arab List.

Lately, Bishara has rarely spoken to the media in Israel, including the Arab media, instead conveying his messages in articles or interviews to Al-Jazeera. Until the Arab Spring, Bishara was considered a senior commentator in the Arab world. Residing in Qatar, he toed the Qatari line in support of the Syrian rebels, which brought him into conflict with pro-Syrian-regime elements.

Bishara explained that his opposition to the regime stems from his support for the democratic camp and the Syrian people, who initially came out, as was the case in Tunisia and Egypt, with a call for democracy and freedom. “I never supported radical and Salafi groups who view anyone different from them as infidels. But I explained even at the beginning of the events in Syria that the conduct of the regime and opening fire on people calling non-violently for change and freedom would lead to the arming and strengthening of those radical groups,” he said. According to the former MK, the situation in Syria today requires a political solution that would include the basis of the regime, to maintain the state institutions, “otherwise Syria will break apart like Somalia,” he said.

Bishara said it is clear that Israel’s new coalition is not heading for peace and that the continued closure of Gaza will lead to another conflict, with the Palestinian Authority keeping a lid on protest in the West Bank.

Bishara, who founded and runs a research institute in Doha, Qatar, is considered close to that country’s rulers, which also allows him to send funding to social affairs and sports associations, including the Nazareth soccer team Ahi Nazrat, which recently received a grant of half a million dollars from the Qataris.