Bishara, Azmi (Ahmed)

(1956- )
   Born in Nazareth to Christian Arab parents, he was educated in East Germany. A professor of philosophy at Bir-Zeit University in the West Bank, Bishara was the founder and head of the National Democratic Alliance (Balad) Party. He was first elected to the Knesset in 1996 on the list of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash) Party. He subsequently broke from Hadash, and Balad ran independently in the 14th Knesset. In 1999, he became the first Arab citizen to run to become Israel's prime minister, campaigning for the extending of full civil and political rights to the Arab community and demanding that Israel be transformed into a "state of all its citizens" and not simply a "Jewish state." Bishara also criticized Israeli policy toward the Golan Heights during highly publicized meetings in Damascus with the president of Syria, Hafez al-Assad, and expressed sympathy for Hezbollah and other groups waging a war of attrition on Israel's border with Lebanon. He withdrew from the prime ministerial race on the eve of the 17 May 1999 elections, throwing his support to the candidacy of One Israel leader Ehud Barak. National Democratic Alliance (Balad) won 2 seats in the 15th Knesset (1999), three seats in the 16th Knesset (2003), and 3 seats in the 17th Knesset (2006).
   Bishara abruptly resigned from the Knesset in April 2007 amid a police investigation into whether his activities in foreign countries constituted a breach of his parliamentary immunity.
   See also Arab Political Parties.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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