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Homeland security begins at home - Three Arab Knesset members being investigated after trip to Syria to support terrorists

September 11, 2006

Arab MKs Under Criminal Investigation
16:43 Sep 10, '06 / 17 Elul 5766
by Hillel Fendel and Ezra HaLevi

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has initiated an investigation against three Arab MKs who traveled to enemy territory - Syria - without permission.

The three MKs are Azmi Bishara, Jamel Zakhalka and Wasel Taha, all of the Balad Party. They also praised Syria's "struggle [for] occupied Arab land" during their weekend visit.

Zionist-party MKs called for criminal charges to be filed against them.

MK Bishara, chairman of the Balad Party, declared Friday, upon his arrival in Syria, that Israeli-Arabs are "Syria's allies." He added that he and his constituency supported Syria's "resistance to the occupation."

The veteran MK, who has traveled to Syria several times, even warned senior Baath Party officials in the hostile state to beware of an Israeli attack. "Israel could attack more than one location in an effort to overcome its domestic crisis and improve its power of deterrence following the war in Lebanon," he said.

Foreign Minister Tzippy Livny said at today's Cabinet meeting that Syria is working to thwart any possible deal to free captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit was captured by Hamas two and a half months ago just outside Gaza. Hamas chief Khaled Meshal, based in Damascus, is apparently working together with the Syrian leaders to foil attempts to reach a prisoner exchange deal. Syria is "playing a problematic role in fanning regional violence," Livny said.

Bishara, together with fellow party MKs Taha and Zakhalka, are scheduled to return to Israel on Tuesday. They plan to meet Syrian leaders, contrary to Knesset regulations drafted following a similar visit by Bishara five years ago.

The stated purpose of the trip was to show solidarity with the Lebanese Arabs hurt during the recent war. The MKs have shifted the focus of the trip to a full embrace of Syria, a particularly controversial stance in the wake of the five-week-long barrage of Syrian- and Iranian-supplied missiles on Israeli cities. Despite that, and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's recent statements about capturing the Golan Heights, the MKs told Army Radio they do not consider Syria to be an enemy state.

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman blasted the Arab MKs Friday, calling the trip a bona fide act of espionage against the Jewish state.

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union-NRP) said that Arab MKs see themselves completely above the law. He explained that since no actions were taken against them in the past, there is absolutely no deterrence to keep them from such activity. "They side with evil, supporting the kidnapping of soldiers," he added, warning of a "fifth column" emanating from within Israel's populace.

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