MKs Slam Peers Who Used Their Immunity to Raise Australian Prisoner Affair in Knesset

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The three lawmakers who raised the Australian prisoner affair in the Knesset should be put on trial, said Likud MK Miri Regev yesterday.

Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), Dov Khenin (Hadash), and Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) were sharply attacked by several other MKs who accused them of using their parliamentary immunity to damage Israel's security.

“The three MKs should stand trial for exposing the Australian prisoner affair," said Regev yesterday. "I’ve approached the state’s legal adviser, to find out who leaked the affair, and why those MKs violated the gag order. MKs must not be allowed to be above the law. We must draw a line whenever national security is concerned."

In a Knesset debate on Tuesday, Gal-On, Khenin and Tibi questioned Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman about the reports concerning the Australian citizen who reportedly committed suicide in prison in Israel.  

 “Extremist left-wing Knesset members took advantage of their positions to harm Israel’s national security," charged Col. (ret.) Moti Yogev of Habayit Hayehudi.  "The media’s coverage of the subject, in the name of freedom of information, interferes with the state’s ability to protect itself. There are some subjects that most Israeli citizens do not want to know about, and they entrust our safety to the security system."

Members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee also lashed out at the three parliamentarians.

“There is no doubt that immunity is reserved for Knesset members to be used to preserve the public’s interests, but there are  addresses within the Knesset, like the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, to clear up questions regarding sensitive matters," said the committee's acting chairman MK Miki Levy (Yesh Atid)." Therefore it was unnecessary to reveal the affair to the whole Knesset, before the security ramifications were known."

MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud),  another acting member of the committee, also cited "national security" as a reason to refrain from discussing the issue publically. But Hanegbi added that while the potential for damaging security exists, "at this point, I do not see any harm done to national security."

Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) questioned the decision to censor the issue. “There are aspects of this affair that deserve public attention, like the meeting of the editors committee. The decision to censor, or to call in the editors committee for discussions is something that must be taken very seriously. It is difficult to stop information like this. Very heavy were wielded lightly," said Shelah.

Regev wrote on her Facebook page that “This is not an issue of keeping your mouth shut, but rather an issue of preserving national security in an advanced communication/technological age, and when MKs speak in the Knesset, it gives legitimacy to the media to report on issues that are under gag order."

Gal-On rebuked Regev on her Facebook page, where she wrote:“Following Miri Regev’s consultation with the state’s Legal Adviser, requesting that I, and two other MKs who spoke about the Australian prisoner affair stand trial, I want to propose to MK Regev that before she yells, that she learn a thing or two about the duties of MKs, and the reasons behind parliamentary immunity. We, Knesset Members, are here to uphold the public’s interests – not tohide information from it, especially not when that information has already been disseminated around the world.

Gal-On reminded Regev that the late Yitzhak Ben Aharon had used his parliamentary immunity in order to read a Nathan Alterman poem about the massacre in Kafr Qasem, in front of the Knesset, and that Benjamin Netanyahu also used his immunity to reveal the Stauber document, which included recommendations for the IDF to retreat from the Golan Heights.

What actually should embarrass Israel is the fact that Miri Regev, who understands nothing about democracy or its fundamental principles, manages to serve as a censor, as an IDF spokesperson, and worst of all – as a Knesset Member,” wrote Gal-On.

Likud MK Miri Regev in the Knesset yesterday. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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