November 10, 2010 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli Knesset parliament on Tuesday approved in its first reading of a bill that would revoke stipends and other benefits from legislators who fail to appear at criminal proceedings held against them, reported The Jerusalem Post.

One former lawmaker who stands to lose his monthly pension is Azmi Bishara, an Israeli Arab who headed the Balad party and fled the country in April 2007 after being suspected of allegedly spying for Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

The bill, which won the approval of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation in July, supports revoking the pensions of current or former legislators undergoing investigation for crimes punishable by at least five years imprisonment. It has to pass two more readings before going into effect.

Bishara has been living in exile since fleeing Israel. He tours Arab capitals, lecturing on the Arab-Israeli conflict and is invited by various media organizations to comment on internal Israeli affairs.

Despite accusations by Israel's security establishment that he was paid by Hezbollah to serve as its front observer before and during the war in 2006, Bishara - who vehemently denied the allegations against him - has legally maintained his citizenship and full pension rights.

The High Court of Justice in 2008 rejected a petition demanding to strip Bishara of both his citizenship and pension benefits. The ruling was handed two months after parliament passed an early reading of the current bill.

The parliamentarians who initiated the bill, which they hope will eventually win final approval and become the "Bishara Law," said Tuesday that an "absurd reality" currently enables a serving or former legislator to enjoy benefits even after being implicated in a crime.

They noted that Bishara has received more than 500,000 shekels (about 138,000 U.S. dollars) since fleeing the country.

"We felt it was necessary to find a solution to the situation," Yisrael Hasson of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, one of the initiators of the bill, said. "Bishara cynically exploited the law and mocked the state's legal institutions. I don't know any other country engaged in conflict which pays an agent of the enemy hundreds of thousands of shekels," he was quoted by the report as saying.


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