The Knesset Ethics Committee will discuss a trip by three Arab Israeli MKs to Qatar, which Israel accuses of funding Hamas, following an official request by an MK and outpouring of criticism by other Israeli politicians Monday.
The committee will investigate all the details of the trip by Balad MKs Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi, and Basel Ghattas, including the source of funding and its purpose, as per the request of Yesh Atid MK Yifat Kariv.
Several reports in recent days suggested that the trio may have met with former party member and suspected Hezbollah spy Azmi Bishara.
Other than Kariv, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and other lawmakers railed against Balad Monday, threatening to have the party disqualified from future Knesset elections.
“The trip by members of Balad, the party that was founded and led by Azmi Bishara… proves decisively once again to those who are still skeptical that there is no place for them in the Israeli Knesset,” Liberman wrote on Facebook.
He added that while the High Court of Justice had previously struck down bans preventing Balad from running in Knesset elections, “we will continue and do everything possible so that this fifth column that represents the terror organizations in the Israeli Knesset finds its place removed from the house of representatives and put behind bars.”
According to a Channel 2 report, the Balad party’s three MKs visited Qatar and met with Bishara, the founder of Balad and 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.
Israeli news source Ynet also reported that the trio traveled to the Gulf emirate, spoke to local media and met with academics, but did not mention a meeting with Bishara.
Liberman said he was confident that upon the Balad MKs’ return from Qatar the attorney general would launch an investigation into how the trip was funded, the legality of the trip and whether funds were transferred at their request from Qatar or Bishara.
Balad MK Basel Ghattas defended the trip.
“I don’t see in this any challenge or defiance against anybody,” he said, according to Israeli daily Haaretz. “This is not the first time that we have visited Qatar. Tzipi Livni visited there several months ago.”
Liberman’s call was echoed by a number of politicians from the right flank of the Knesset, including Likud members Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and MK Miri Regev, as well as Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Miller.
Balad and specifically MK Zoabi have been under attack by Israel’s right wing regularly for the past several months stemming from a number of incidents, most recently when she and Zahalka were arrested at an Arab Israeli protest against Operation Protective Edge in July.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch alleged that Zoabi struck a police officer and called for the revocation of her Knesset immunity. The Knesset Ethics Committee later suspended Zoabi from participating in debates on the Knesset floor for six months.
Liberman also said he would seek to have Zoabi and the Balad party disqualified from elections following a Zoabi interview with Al-Jazeera in which she said that the “Palestinian resistance will not surrender” and that Israelis want a short military campaign in Gaza, “because the Israeli home front cannot stand a protracted conflict.”
In an official statement, a Hamas spokesperson later hailed Zoabi as a “Palestinian woman full of patriotism,” expressing the wish that some in the Palestinian Authority would take her as an example.
Liberman called Balad “a party of traitors.”
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided to investigate Zoabi 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 “they should be used to wipe the floor.”
Zoabi had previously drawn the ire of Israeli politicians from across the spectrum in June when she said that the kidnappers of three Israeli teens, who were later found murdered, were not terrorists.