By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
Last update – 20:47 09/04/2007

Confidants of MK Azmi Bishara, chairman of the Arab Balad party, say he has already tendered his letter of resignation from the Knesset, Channel 10 News reported.

Haaretz learned Sunday of Bishara’s intensions to announce his resignation while he is out of the country, but according to a Balad statement issues on Monday, his decision to resign is not yet final.

Bishara was expected to make the announcement on a television interview from his present location in Amman, Jordan.

He was also expected to send his letter of resignation to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik following the Passover recess, later in the week.

Bishara’s intentions were first reported on the Website of the Nazareth-based Arab language newspaper A-Sinara. The circumstances surrounding Bishara’s expected resignation are still unclear.

Balad issued a statement Monday evening saying that Bishara would return to Israel on a date yet to be decided, and that should he decide to resign, he would make the announcement in Israel.

The Balad chairman left Israel two weeks ago. He initially left for Qatar to serve as commentator for the Aljazeera TV network during the Arab Summit in Riyadh. He then flew to Amman, in order to promote the release of his latest novel. He plans to announce his resignation from Amman, and it is unclear when he intends to return to Israel.

Senior Balad officials stressed to Haaretz on Sunday that the resignation will be confirmed only if Bishara does in fact make the announcement.

Should he resign, Bishara will be replaced by the 4th member on the Balad list, Saeed Nafa. Nafa is a resident of the Druze village of Beit Djan in the Upper Galilee. MK Jamal Zakhalka is expected to replace Bishara as party chairman, although this move would have to be approved first by the party’s high committee.

The Arab Balad party was founded in 1995. In 1996 Bishara was elected as a Knesset member as part of a joint ticket with Hadash. In the 2006 elections Balad received over 72 thousand votes, making it the third largest Israeli Arab party. The party’s charter calls for equal rights for Israeli Arabs.

Within Israeli Arab society, Balad is seen as representing an Arab nationalist line strongly opposed to Israel and the U.S.In a published article, Balad’s MK Zahalka wrote “Balad’s foundation blocked the Israelization Arabs were facing as a result of the Oslo [peace] process and presented the Palestinian Arab option as the only option Arab citizens could conscientiously belong to, besides identification as a citizen of the state.”

I am adding one of the comments on this article of a man called Moshe, obviously Jewish, who titles his comment as “Israel is quickly becoming a Fascist State”.

Here are his words …

“Does anyone here see a pattern? Occupation, settlement, judization, discrimination, expulsion, uprooting, demolition, concrete walls, and finally performing orifice search on Arab MKs. And now everyone on this forum is cheering this headline. Where is the Jewish State going? If it had little respect from the International community prior to July 2006, it now has none.”


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