Ghattas to Appear for Questioning Tuesday

YERUSHALAYIM -
Arab Israeli MK Basel Ghattas wears a kafiya around his shoulders as he addresses the Knesset in 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

After “going underground” for almost a day, MK Basel Ghatas (United Arab List) was due to visit police headquarters Tuesday. Following media reports that he was wanted for questioning on the smuggling of 15 cellphones to top terrorists in Israeli prisons, as well as secret messages that were to be used to assist in the carrying out of terror attacks, Ghattas issued a statement saying that he had nothing to hide – and that he was in touch with police regarding reports.

Police, however, said that they were unable to locate Ghattas to issue him a summons to come in for questioning. The Foreign Ministry promptly issued a ban on Ghattas’s leaving the country, and there were concerns that Ghattas could try to leave Israel before he was arrested, as did former MK Azmi Bishara, who ran away in 2007 after learning he was being investigated for delivering sensitive information to Hezbollah during the second Lebanon War. A spokesperson for Ghattas said Monday night that there was nothing to worry about – the MK would appear for questioning if asked, and indeed a meeting was scheduled for Tuesday at the police department’s Serious Crimes Unit.

Ministers and MKs on the right were unified in condemning Ghattas for, according to a report on Channel Two, smuggling at least 15 cellphones into the prison on behalf of Hamas terrorists, at least one of whom is serving several life sentences for murder. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said that Ghattas, along with other Balad MKs, “have for years crossed all red lines and expressed support for Israel’s enemies. They encourage and support terror, and call for boycotts of Israel.”

Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said that the “suspicions regarding Ghattas’s activities, in the ‘tradition’ of the activities of Zoabi and Azmi Bishara, who spied for Hezbollah, shows how mistaken the High Court was to deny the Knesset the right to legislate a version of the Dismissal Bill that would have enable us to act much more quickly and easily.”

Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara said that “Ghattas’s crimes require a revision of the rights and obligations of MKs. Cooperating with and helping terrorists can be defined in only one way – an attempt to harm Israel’s security.”

On the left, Meretz head Zehava Gal-on said that while Ghattas’s actions were “very serious and dangerous,” it was up to police and the courts to develop a case and try the MK – not the Knesset. MKs and ministers calling for Ghattas’s head “are taking advantage of an opportunity to attack the Arab public and incite against them. Last week they blamed the Arabs for all the forest fires in the north, and now they are accusing them collectively of security offenses.”

Ghattas himself said in a statement that the accusations against him “are another example of political persecution against a leader of the Arab sector and our political activity. The police continue to try and break the spirit of my party Balad. Police asked me to come in for questioning but that meeting has not yet taken place. Visits by MKs to security prisoners are done with the full cooperation of the Prisons Service and with the blessing of the Defense Ministry. I have nothing to hide, and I will continue to represent the Arab public with legitimate political activity.”