Knesset Votes Not to Lift Immunity of Member Linked to 1988 PLO Scheme

The Knesset voted Monday night not to strip Arab Knesset member Mohammed Miari of his parliamentary immunity.

A Knesset panel had recommended last week that Miari’s immunity be stripped so that he could be prosecuted for his alleged involvement two years ago in a failed scheme by the Palestine Liberation Organization to sail a boatload of Palestinian deportees into an Israeli port.

But in a move that surprised political observers, the Knesset voted 49-29 not to lift the immunity of Miari, who heads the one-seat Progressive List for Peace.

Seven members of the Likud bloc, including Finance Minister Yitzhak Moda’i and Economic Planning Minister David Magen, either absented themselves from the secret vote or abstained.

The Likud had made special efforts to ensure the vote’s success. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir arrived at the Knesset late Monday night especially for that purpose.

After the debate and vote, which took several hours, many opposition Knesset members rushed to shake Miari’s hand. Likud members demanded a thorough soul-searching within party ranks to see why so many of its members failed to support the move to lift Miari’s immunity.

The motion to remove Miari’s Knesset immunity was submitted by Haim Corfu, chairman of the Knesset House Committee, who had acted on behalf of Attorney General Yosef Harish.

Prior to the vote, Miari made an emotional speech, in which he insisted that he was a member of the Knesset by right and not by mercy. He stressed he had acted in accordance with his commitment to his voters. He blamed those who had asked to remove his immunity of acting against him not as an individual, but rather as the representative of Arab voters.

“There is no second-class Knesset member, just as there is no second-class citizen,” he said.

Likud Knesset member Tzahi Hanegbi said Tuesday that it was one of the absurdities of Israeli democracy that Miari’s immunity remained intact, while Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was barred from running for the Knesset in 1988, was no longer alive.

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