May 03, 2007
By ISABEL KERSHNER
JERUSALEM, May 2 — The Israeli police on Wednesday revealed further details of allegations that they said could result in charges of treason against a former Israeli lawmaker, Azmi Bishara.
Azmi Bishara, an Israeli Arab, in Cairo last month. Israeli investigators say he aided Hezbollah during its war with Israel last summer.
Mr. Bishara, who left Israel a month ago, has denied any wrongdoing.
According to a police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, Mr. Bishara, an Israeli Arab, is suspected of passing information to Hezbollah during the war waged against the Lebanese militia by Israel last summer. The 34-day conflict followed Hezbollah’s seizure of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12. Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets at Israel during the war.
Mr. Bishara is alleged to have advised Hezbollah on “how to cause further damage to Israel” by giving his contacts geographical information and urging them “to strike further south than Haifa,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. He said Mr. Bishara also handed over “classified information” about the Israeli Army during the war — information the police said he had access to as a member of Parliament — and advised his contacts of changes in Israel’s thinking as the war progressed.
Mr. Bishara resigned from Parliament in April in a letter sent via the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, shortly before the partial lifting of a court-imposed gag order on the investigation against him. The remaining restrictions were lifted by the court on Wednesday.
Mr. Bishara is also accused of violating money laundering laws, for receiving “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in cash, the police said. The money was delivered to him personally in sealed envelopes by several East Jerusalem money changers, in batches of $50,000, according to the police. The money is said to have come via Jordan, from an unspecified country.
Because of Mr. Bishara’s parliamentary immunity, investigators from the police and the Shin Bet internal security agency had to get permission from the Israeli Supreme Court to wiretap his phone. The taped conversations “strengthened the suspicions that he was handing over critical information,” Mr. Rosenfeld said.
Over the years Mr. Bishara, an outspoken politician, has spearheaded calls for Israel to change its character from being a Jewish state to a “state for all its citizens.” Many of his ideas have spread among the political and intellectual elite of Israel’s Arab minority.
Jamal Zahalka, a lawmaker from Mr. Bishara’s Balad Party and a close associate, said in a telephone interview that the police “lack real evidence” against Mr. Bishara and that the accusations are based on a “distorted interpretation of conversations he held with friends, acquaintances and journalists” in Lebanon during the war.
Regarding the cash transfers, Mr. Zahalka said the police “don’t know where the money came from, or where it went.” He said that Mr. Bishara denied all the allegations.
Mr. Bishara has not returned to Israel, Mr. Zahalka said, because “he knows that when it comes to security charges, the courts in Israel act differently and easily accept the claims of Shin Bet.”
Mr. Bishara told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he was a victim of political persecution. “It is very clear they have a plot,” he said by telephone from Amman, Jordan. If Mr. Bishara does return, he will be arrested on arrival, according to the police. If charged and found guilty, he could face life imprisonment, and technically, the death penalty, though the only civil execution carried out by Israel was that of Adolph Eichmann in 1962.
The New York Times