Bishara May Lose His Free Newspaper and Phone Rights

Ex-MKs are entitle to these perks, and a pension, for life. House Ctee mulling penalties for criminals

It may not be the least of his troubles, but self-exiled Knesset member Azami Bishara looks likely to lose his free daily newspaper, and reimbursement of phone costs, up to NIS 8,400 a year for the latter.

On Wednesday the Knesset House Committee will discuss whether to deny Bishara's privileges. It is not as simple as one might think, though he quit parliament through the offices of Israel's ambassador to Egypt, where he was at the time. For all that he's accused of aiding the enemy, the outcome of his perks is far from being a foregone conclusion.

The thing is, former Knesset members do get to keep some perks, including that free paper and reimbursement of phone bills, though they're not supposed to abuse the privileges for personal issues. Clearly some do, leading to waste of taxpayer money, from Knesset general counsel Nurit Elstein says.

The proposal to rescind his privileges was the initiative of House committee chairwoman Ruhama Avraham of Kadima, who received an opinion from Elstein.

On Wednesday Avraham will be proposing a new law, that would deny payments to former Knesset members who commit offenses defined as crimes. If a former Knesset member is convicted of crime, she proposes, the court may rescind not only free papers and phone reimbursement, but pension rights and "adjustment" payments.

Bishara is entitled to a pension of NIS 7,000 a month, towards which  (as is the case of all Knesset members) he saved not one shekel. He is also entitled to a free paper and phone reimbursement for life. As he's only 51 years of age, keeping him in clover, and in the know, could cost a great deal.