March 16, 2017
Basel Ghattas, an Arab member of the Knesset for the Joint List, signs a plea deal to resolve charges that he used his position as a Knesset member to smuggle cellphones and documents to prisoners in jail. Under the deal, he must resign his position, serve two years in prison and pay a fine of 120,000 shekels (about $30,000).
A criminal investigation began after Ghattas was caught on prison surveillance cameras giving envelopes to Waled Daka and Basel Ben Sulieman Bezre. Daka is serving a 37-year sentence for abducting and murdering soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984, and Bezre is serving a 15-year sentence for a terror conviction.
The plea deal marks the first use of the MK Impeachment Law, enacted in July 2016. The law allows the Knesset to impeach a member after 70 fellow Knesset members, including 10 from the opposition, vote to start the impeachment process. The Knesset then must approve impeachment with at least 90 votes, or three-quarters of the members.
With the support of Yesh Atid and some members of the Zionist Union, 72 Knesset members voted for Ghattas’ impeachment on the first Knesset vote. That vote led to his plea deal and resignation before the next vote.
Ghattas has maintained his innocence throughout the process, claiming that he thought the envelopes he delivered had books in them, not phones. He also says he is being discriminated against for being an Arab lawmaker. After all, the MK Impeachment Law was passed after a few Arab Knesset members met with the families of terrorists who were killed while attacking Israelis.