Coalition MKs Help Sink Govt's Bishara Bill'

The government yesterday failed in its efforts to rush through legislation that would require any member of Knesset wishing to visit an enemy state to obtain prior approval from the interior minister. Members of the ruling coalition were among those who voted against the bill.

The main motive behind the bill was to prevent MK Azmi Bishara (National Democratic Alliance) from making further visits to Syria. Under the proposed law, Bishara would face prosecution if he made another visit to an enemy country without the interior minister's approval. The Knesset House Committee decided yesterday by a majority of 6 to 4 not to okay the draft of the bill, meaning that bill will not be brought before the Knesset. The Knesset adjourned yesterday for its summer recess. It will reconvene for the start of its winter session in October.

MK Yair Peretz (Shas) appealed the outcome of the vote, and the bill was put to a revote where, once again, the result was 6 to 4 against the bill. Among those who voted down the bill were members of the ruling coalition, including Knesset House Committee Chair MK Yossi Katz and MK Sofa Landver (Labor). Their failure to follow the coalition whip prompted the wrath of Labor faction chair MK Efi Oshaya who criticized them for voting against the government.

Cabinet secretary Gideon Sa'ar had asked Katz to debate the bill and give it a special form of approval, so that it would be brought before the Knesset immediately and forgo the two-day waiting period customary for all government bills.