Jerusalem, Israel – Israeli intelligence officials have divulged the charges that the Israeli law enforcement system wish to bring against former Israeli Arab Knesset Parliament Member Azmi Bishara, who quietly escaped from Israel three weeks ago.
If Bishara returns, he will be indicted for spying on behalf of Hezbollah during the second Lebanon war by providing them with with targets for their attacks, as well as with classified military information.
Bishara will be accused of assisting the enemy in a time of war, maintaining contact with a foreign agent, passing information to an enemy, money laundering and terrorist financing.
The first of those charges, assisting the enemy in a time of war, is one of the rare offenses punishable by death in Israel – a clause which has never been used.
Bishara did not make contact with Hezbollah in secret. He openly traveled to Damascus and to Beirut during the Hezbollah missile attacks on Israel last summer.
Israeli intelligence officials have placed their hands on what the former MK allegedly transferred to Hezbollah, in terms of information, predictions, assessments and recommendations, which included selected targets in northern Israel that Hezbollah fired on at the specific instructions of Bishara.
It has now been revealed that the Israeli Supreme Court issued confidential authorization to Israeli intelligence to tap Bishara’s telephone conversations, a tactic that can only be employed with the court’s approval. The investigation was conducted in conjunction with the office of the Israel Attorney-General’s office.
According to Israeli intelligence officials, Bishara received detailed missions from Hezbollah, which he carried out.
He also allegedly transferred military information to Hezbollah that, according to Israeli intelligence, he knew to have been classified by the IDF censor. Bishara also allegedly informed Hezbollah of what he called “Israel’s intention to target Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.”
Bishara was questioned by the Israel Police’s International Serious Crimes Unit on March 22 and 23 in Petah Tikva, in two three-hour sessions.
ISCU head Lt.-Cmdr. Amichai Shai said Bishara was confident when he arrived for the first day of questioning. But when the MK understood that the allegations against him were more serious than he had thought, there was a noticeable change in his behavior.
During the questioning, Bishara said he planned to travel abroad for several days. Due to his parliamentary immunity, authorities were unable to prevent him from leaving the country. Police continued to communicate with Bishara’s representatives, extending the deadline for the MK’s return until April 24.
Bishara is also accused of receiving at least hundreds of thousands of dollars illegally. The money was transferred from a money-exchange office in Jordan to another in east Jerusalem in envelopes, and from there to his home in Beit Hanina. In some cases, he received the funds in dollars, and in other cases in shekels. Each transfer was equivalent to $50,000.
On April 26, after his resignation went into effect, police searched Bishara’s homes in Beit Hanina and in Haifa, as well as his office in Nazareth. Earlier this week, police searched Bishara’s office in the Knesset after receiving special permission.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, Bishara tried to defend himself in an op-ed entitled, “Why Israel is after me.”
In that LA Times piece, Bishara describes himself as a new “Dreyfus,” to conjure up the image of the French Jewish officer Dreyfus who was wrongly accused of treason against his homeland in France
Yet Bishara, given the platform of the LA Times editorial page, does not refute the charges leveled against him, preferring, instead, to point out that “Hezbollah – Israel’s enemy in Lebanon – has independently gathered more security information about Israel than any Arab Knesset member could possibly provide.”
Unprecedented Unity Of Israel’s National, Peace Camps At Rally
Two members of Israel’s Knesset Parliament, MK Yossi Beilin (of the left-wing Meretz Party) and MK Effie Eitam (from the right-wing National Union Party) co-authored an op-ed that appeared on the front page of Maariv on Thursday.
They began their article by saying that “We never wrote an article together. We have opposing approaches regarding the path to realize Zionism. We stand on opposite sides on almost every issue and do not find ourselves partners in coalitions. But we both fear for the future of Israeli society. We both gaze in shock at the sight of the behavior of the prime minister in the wake of the Winograd Committee report. We both are convinced that Olmert must leave because of his responsibility for the serious failure of the second Lebanon War. We both will do what is possible within the framework of the rules of democracy for this to happen.”
Beilin and Eitam described Olmert as ensconcing himself in the ruins of “Ehudgrad” (a play on the word Stalingrad), running his last battle for political survival.
©The Bulletin 2007