MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List) on Wednesday sent the Knesset Committee a letter announcing he was giving up his lawmaker’s immunity from searches and prosecution. The Nazareth born, Christian Ghattas acted following a unanimous vote by the committee to recommend that the House remove his immunity, possibly as early as Thursday. Ghattas is suspected of passing contraband cellular phones and information to security prisoners.
At this point, MK Ghattas is probably aware that police have the goods on him: during his initial interrogation, he was shown video documenting clearly how he passed the phones and the documents to Arab terrorists behind bars. According to unofficial police reports, Ghattas was stunned, and was unable to come up with a consistent explanation to his actions onscreen.
Sources close to Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan revealed to Israel’s Channel 2 News how Ghattas was caught red-handed. In recent months, according to those sources, Arab MK were not allowed to visit security prisoners. The sole exception was MK Ghattas, who continued to receive permits for those visits. Apparently, police and the prisons authority had been informed about his pattern of violations, and so they signaled the minister to lend the MK a long rope for his own hanging. The rest was just a matter of security cameras doing their job.
Ghattas had originally request an opportunity to face the Knesset committee, and planned to accuse it of conducting a political witch hunt. His letter to Committee Chair MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) stated, “This is an unreasonable process by which a hearing is set before reception of the request and without a proper opportunity and reasonable time to study it. […] from the start of this episode police and law enforcement authorities have been stepping on my rights and preventing me from having my dignified due process. The debate you will be conducting today is nothing more than political, with a predictable outcome.”
Ghattas’ cousin, disgraced former MK Azmi Bishara, in 2006 was the subject of an Israeli criminal investigation, for money laundering, contact with a foreign agent, delivery of information to the enemy and aiding the enemy in wartime. After Bishara had been stripped of his parliamentary immunity, he fled Israel and has not returned since.David Israel