“The Azmi Bishara affair has once again raised the question of Arab public officials’ loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state,” National Union-NRP MK Zevulun Orlev said Tuesday in reference to recent rumors of the Arab MK’s intention to resign from Knesset.
“Those who hesitate amid this growing phenomenon will soon find themselves facing a violent Arab insurgence that will sweep the entire Arab-Israeli public,” he said, adding that “this is not an academic or theoretical question, but one that is directly related to Israel’s ability to exist as a Jewish state.”
A few days ago Bishara left Israel for Jordan and has yet to make a public statement on the matter, although his faction – Balad - formally denied rumors of his resignation.
On Tuesday, a website affiliated with his party reported that Bishara had left Jordan and was on his way to Europe.
According to the report in the Arabs48 website, the Balad chairman met in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah al-Khatib before his departure. In the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, the two discussed regional issues, the report said.
The website added that MK Bishara's visit to Europe would last five days and that he was apparently headed for Madrid. From Spain he is expected to fly to Bahrain, where he plans to attend a conference, the report said.
Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu said Bishara “undermined the gentle fabric between Arabs and Jews in Israel.
“Everyone is to gain if he indeed disappears from the political arena,” he said.
Orlev continued to say that Bishara’s visit to Lebanon and his meeting with President Bashar Assad in Damascus, as well as the meeting between Arab MKs and Hamas leaders, are examples of “obvious encouragement to launch an armed struggle in Israel and carry out acts of terrorism against its citizens.”
He said the fact that the Arab MKs were not brought to justice for their actions shows that they are taking full advantage of the “helplessness, weakness and hesitation of the Knesset, the State Prosecutor’s Office and the courts.”
Orlev said the Arab MKs’ “covert acts pose a real threat to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.”
On Tuesday the religious Knesset member submitted a proposal according to which anyone who visits an enemy state would automatically be revoked of his or her right to run for Knesset. In addition, several other MKs have decided to submit a proposal that would obligate all Knesset members to pledge allegiance to Israel. Similar proposals have been rejected in the past.
Fellow NRP member Zvi Hendel said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the Arab leadership in Israel, part of which is in the Knesset, is cooperating with the enemy in a way that is more extreme than the Arab public in Israel is; most Arab-Israelis want to live as citizens of the state and earn a decent living.
“How does the Jewish Israeli leadership not realize that we must act against this fifth column? How long can we close our eyes and say that everything is permitted in a democracy?” he said.
'Bishara affair worries me'
Former deputy Shin Bet chief MK Israel Hasson of Israel Our Home dismissed claims made by Arab MKs that they are being politically-persecuted, saying, “These allegations are made by public officials who are spearheading the destruction of Israel’s Jewish identity instead of working to bridge between the nations and strive for co-existence.”
Arab MK Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash) said in response that the Right “is still questioning our existence in our homeland,” adding that the Arab MKs are abiding by Israeli law.
“Any statements or affairs, severe as they may be, will not undermine our legitimate struggle for our national and civil rights in the State of Israel,” he said.
Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin slammed the right-wing MKs’ statements, saying, “We can do irreparable damage to the country if we allow ourselves to be dragged into the Right’s bashing of the Arab parties.
“We are going to live with the Arab sector in Israel for many generations to come, and only a madman would deepen the rift, which has not been bridged since the October 2000 riots.”
However, Beilin added that the leaders of the Arab public in Israel are “leading a process that is widening the gap (between the nations). As Jews who believe in equality, our job is to do everything in order to reduce this gap.
“The Bishara affair worries me mainly due to its possible ramifications, which could deepen the divide between the Jewish and Arab sectors,” he said.
Meanwhile, Arab-Israeli newspaper Kul-Alarab reported Tuesday that Bishara may have requested political asylum in Qatar while visiting the country two weeks ago, adding that he does not plan on returning to Israel.
The newspaper quoted sources affiliated with Balas as saying that the party’s other MKs, Jamal Zahalka and Wasil Taha, met with Bishara in Jordan last month. According to the sources, Bishara’s resignation is almost certain. They said his wife and children joined him in the Hashemite Kingdom for Easter.