For a change, we got today a piece of good news. A small one, but still quite significant: it turns out that the shameful “Exclusion Law” - enacted several months ago with the aim of setting up a kangaroo court for Knesset Members – can at present not be implemented.
The functioning of the parliamentary opposition in Israel’s Parliament is far from satisfactory. In fact, there are moments when one can doubt whether there is such a thing as an opposition. Still, today it became clear that Israeli democracy does show some signs of life.
The government sought to have the radical Arab Knesset Member Basel Ghattas summarily unseated, based on no more than the completely unproven allegation that he had “smuggled mobile phones to Palestinian prisoners”. However, the mainstream parliamentary opposition did refuse to give the assent needed for such an act – refusing to be carried along on the waves of incendiary nationalist rhetoric emanating from the Prime Minister's Bureau. Even the “Centrist” Yair Lapid, whose capacity to bend backwards seemed infinite in recent months, proved today to be still in possession of some backbone.
Regarding the merits of the case: if the assertions against MK Ghattas are indeed proven true, then unquestionably he had committed an offense under the laws of the State of Israel. That, however, is a very big “if” – if the allegations are proven. In a State of Law, the presumption of innocence applies to all citizens in general and no less to Knesset Members. A citizen is considered innocent unless proven guilty. The procedure of proving (or disproving) such allegations is clearly set out in the law. First, a police investigation should be conducted. If significant prima facie evidence is found, the Attorney General should request the Knesset to remove MK Ghattas’ Parliamentary immunity. If the immunity is removed, under a procedure set down at the founding of the state, he should be indicted. At his trial, MK Ghattas should have proper legal representation and adequately defend himself against the charges. And if at the end of this process the court would convict him - then and only then will it be possible to refer to the MK Ghattas as being guilty of having offended against the laws of the State of Israel.
And by the way: if it will come out this way - at the end of a process which will last far more than one or two days – even then, one should mention to the hotheads that the only known use which could be made of a mobile phone is to have phone calls.
Contact: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesperson 054-2340749