At the end of stormy discussions which included harsh exchanges between the Jewish and Arab Knesset members Monday, the Knesset passed the first reading of the 'Azmi Bishara law' which withholds salaries and pensions from Knesset members suspected or convicted of terror. Twenty-three coalition members supported the bill while nine opposed it. Most of the opposition was from the Arab parties.
The bill is named after the former chairman of the Balad party – Azmi Bishara. Bishara left the country in 2007 after Israeli police announced that he was suspected of passing information to Hezbollah before and during the Second Lebanon War, in 2008. As a result, he cannot be brought to trial.
Bishara, is set to lose his monthly pension if the proposal becomes a law; the bill must still be approved in its second and third reading before it can go into effect.
The bill regarding revocation of pensions won the approval of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation this past July and was passed by the Knesset House Committee in November.
The High Court of Justice two years ago rejected a petition demanding that it strip Bishara of both his citizenship and his pension. The decision was made two months after the Knesset passed an early reading of a bill to revoke the pensions of MKs in situations akin to Bishara's.