A number of Israeli Arab Knesset members traveled to Qatar last week, Israel’s Channel 2 reported, with conflicting reports on whether they met with a former MK who fled Israel and is suspected of spying for Hezbollah.
According to the Channel 2 report, three Balad party MKs — Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi, and Basel Ghattas — visited Qatar, a country with close ties to Hamas, in recent days. There they reportedly met with party founder Azmi Bishara, a former MK and academic who has lived there in self-imposed exile since 2007. He fled Israel after being investigated over suspicions that he provided Hezbollah with information during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
A spokesman for the party told Israel Radio that he was not aware of the three meeting with Bishara. He said they traveled to Qatar to conduct a series of interviews to the media (Al Jazeera is based in Qatar) and to meet with academics, and added that the trip’s expenses were paid for privately.
During the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, Bishara was investigated by police for passing information about the IDF’s preparedness to Hezbollah agents and was allegedly compensated with hundreds of thousands of shekels by the terrorist group. The ex-MK was also accused of laundering funds.
Following the initial investigation, Bishara left Israel and told police and Shin Bet investigators he would return for a third round of questioning. However, the then-MK settled permanently in Qatar, and submitted his Knesset resignation from the Israeli embassy in Cairo. According to Bishara’s website, he has received Qatari citizenship.
In March, the Dubai police chief accused the former Israeli politician of being an Israeli agent who was sent to destabilize the Persian Gulf region.
Bishara is not the only Balad MK to feature in controversial news.
Zoabi was recently suspended from the Knesset floor for six months by the Knesset Ethics Committee. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided to open an investigation against the MK after two policemen, apparently Arabs themselves, complained that, during hearings for the extension of arrest for Israeli-Arabs who demonstrated against Operation Protective Edge, she insulted them with a spiteful outburst. According to Ynet, Zoabi called them “collaborators with the oppressors of their own people” and said that “they should be used to wipe the floor.”
Zoabi, who participated in the 2010 flotilla sail to Gaza organized by the Islamic IHH group in Turkey, also recently angered lawmakers with articles she penned that they interpreted as advice to Hamas on how to defeat Israel and as a call for violence against Israel.
In April, former Balad MK Said Nafa was found guilty of meeting with a foreign agent, traveling to an enemy country and aiding other Israelis and permanent residents to do the same.
Nafa, a Beit Jann resident who served in the Knesset from 2007 to 2013, has advocated that Israel’s Druze population abandon its traditional loyalty to Israel, adopt a Palestinian and pan-Arab identity, and stop performing mandatory IDF service alongside Israeli Jews.