Knesset Panel: No Immunity for MK Who Visited Syria

Tibi: Prosecute non-Arab ministers who 'sought talks with Hamas chief' and shook hands with Iranian counterpart.

The Knesset House Committee on Tuesday rejected a request by Druze lawmaker Said Naffaa for immunity from prosecution over a 2007 visit to Syria, where he met the leaders of Palestinian militant groups.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said in December that he would indict Naffaa for an alleged meeting with Talal Naji, deputy chief of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and for visiting the offices of Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal, although Meshal was not present at the time. Israel and the West view Hamas as a terrorist group.

Outraged by the decision, Arab MK Ahmed Tibi on Tuesday accused the panel members of racism, saying that non-Arab lawmakers should also face charges for their own moves to contact Israel's enemies.

If Naffaa was to be prosecuted for "contact with a foreign agent," Tibi told the committee, then so should Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas and Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov of Yisrael Beiteinu.

Tibi told the committee that Yishai tried to arrange a meeting with the Damascus-based Meshal via former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, while Misezhnikov allegedly shook hands with his Iranian counterpart in Madrid last week.

"What would have happened if the Iranian minister had asked to meet him [Misezhnikov] in some dark corner?" Tibi asked. "You would all have praised it as a great achievement. Why? Because he is Misezhnikov. Because he is not an Arab."

Naffaa on Monday wrote to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to reject the accusations against him, arguing that his meetings in Syria were within his duties as a Knesset member and that political immunity should protect him from indictment.

"The attorney general's decision to indict me is irregular, strange and verges on discrimination," Nafaa told the committee Tuesday.

"I have no intention of hiding behind immunity," he said. "But the circumstances of the visit dictate that the place for this discussion is in the Knesset and not the courts."