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Israel: Nullifying Payment to Knesset Members Suspected or Convicted of Grand Felonies

(Feb. 16, 2011) On February 14, 2011, the Knesset (Israel's Parliament) passed the Nullification of Payments to Current and Former Knesset Members (KMs) for an Offense Law, 5771-2011. The Law authorizes the Knesset to determine that payments due to a Member, in whole or in part, will not be paid, starting from the first of the month following the nullification decision and until it is determined that the circumstances constituting grounds for the determination have either ceased to exist or have changed. Such a decision does not apply to monetary benefits payments due to KM kin deriving from his Knesset service.

A Knesset decision to nullify a KM's payments must be preceded by a notification by the Attorney General (AG) to the Knesset and the Knesset Committee Chairman and, to the extent possible, to the KM subject of the notification, of the nature of the suspicions against the KM; the legal provisions regarding the offense; and the lack of compliance with a summons to appear for an investigation, for a trial, or to serve a sentence. A notification by the AG may only be provided upon a request of at least ten KMs and only if the following conditions are met:

  • the KM is suspected, indicted, or convicted of an offense punishable by more than ten years' imprisonment;
  • the offense was committed, fully or partially, during his service as a KM;
  • in the absence of presenting any reasonable reasons, the KM did not comply with a request to appear for an investigation, for a trial, or to serve a sentence; and
  • non-compliance includes staying outside of Israel or refusal or avoidance of returning to Israel to comply with the invitation to appear for any of these purposes.

Explanatory notes for the bill suggest that among others, the law would encourage KMs to appear for an investigation, for trial, and to serve a sentence, while not affecting the rights of the KM's family members for payments due based on the KM's Knesset service.

Israeli media have reported that one of the bill's proponents, KM Moshe Mots Matalon, has issued a statement to the press on payments that had been made to fugitive former KM Azmi Bishara after his escape from Israel. Bishara has been suspected of committing treason and espionage by assisting Hizbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War. He escaped from Israel on April 8, 2007, and shortly thereafter resigned from the Knesset by means of a letter to Israel's consul in Cairo.

According to Matalon's press statement, information received from the Knesset accountant indicated that since his escape, Bishara has received 512,917 New Israeli Shekels (about US$140,600) as “an adjustment sum” following his resignation, as well as consecutive monthly pension payments. (Nullification of Payments to Current and Former Knesset Members (KMs) for an Offense Law, 5771-2011, & corresponding bill, Knesset website, &, respectively (both in Hebrew & last visited Feb.15, 2011; see also Yosi Nisan, The Fugitive Former KM Bishara Received from the State 512,917 NIS [in Hebrew], GLOBES (Feb. 14, 2011)