Forty-one lawmakers voted in favor of the bill in its preliminary reading, while nine voted against it. The bill has been named after former Knesset Member Azmi Bishara (Balad), who was questioned on suspicion of aiding Hezbollah but fled the country and continued to receive his pension from the Knesset.
The new law will only refer to offenses committed during the MK's term. A decision to revoke the discussed payments requires an attorney general investigation and recommendation.
The bill's initiators explained that "the current situation creates a distortion, and therefore we must set a norm according to which public servants fulfill their duties in the framework of the law and subject to the law enforcement authorities. This is a reasonable move which any democracy which has to defend itself should take and serves as a clear statement by members of the Knesset."
'Knesset put an end to insolence'
One of the bill's initiators, MK Israel Hasson (Kadima), said that "the Knesset plenum proved today that it won't allow stretching democracy in the State of Israel beyond the maximum. Today we have put an end to the insolence of elected representatives who fail to obey the law and the foolishness which has been taking place among us up to now."
MK Yariv Levin (Likud), who also initiated the bill, said he "welcomes the Knesset's decision to back the bill and end the situation in which treason against the State of Israel becomes a profitable business, yielding Bishara the traitor thousands of shekels a month.
"The absurdity allowing Bishara to contact terror organizations and aid them, while receiving regular funding from the State of Israel, infuriates any loyal citizen of this country. It is our duty to put an end to this situation."
Bishara's fellow party member, MK Jamal Zahalka, appeared less enthusiastic. "A pension is a person's property. It's something a person saves for during his working years, and the government has no right to stick its hand in this property, which belongs not only to the person but also to his family and children.
"This issue will be a precedent. Any person, even one who has been convicted of the worst offense, should not have his property and the property of his family and children harmed. The attempt to take Azmi Bishara's money is not the main issue here. It's a matter of principal."