Former Arab-Israeli MK convicted of fraud and forgery

In a plea deal reached with Hanin Zoabi and 12 others from the Balad party, they will receive fines and not serve jail time.

Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Former Balad party MK Hanin Zoabi was convicted Monday of fraud and forgery in connection to illegal fundraising for the 2013 elections.

In a plea deal with the prosecution, the ex-legislator and four senior political colleagues in the Arab-Israeli party admitted that they had filed hundreds of fraudulent documents that hid illegal contributions in order to get around Israel’s campaign finance laws.

Eight other defendants who agreed that their names should appear on the falsified donor receipts filed with the State Comptroller’s Office also pled guilty to fraud with the intent to receive benefit. In total, over NIS 2.4 million in campaign contributions from unknown sources was deposited in the Balad account before the elections.

In return for not having to go to trial, it is expected that the defendants will not serve time in prison. They will instead receive community service time and be obligated to pay fines ranging from NIS 25,000-75,000. Ynet reported that Zoabi herself will be sentenced to probation for one year and a NIS 75,000 fine.

The group’s lawyers expressed satisfaction with the plea deal.

“At the end of the day it turned out that we were right all the time and the case returned to its natural dimensions, as a specific event of non-compliance with the election guidelines,” they said. “We are glad that the State Attorney’s Office was able to understand things as they were and went back on the indictment that included serious offenses that had no basis.”

When filing the original indictment in August 2019, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit had said that he believed there was evidence enough to criminally charge the whole Balad faction, but that he wouldn’t do so because of the “harm” it was cause to its supporters to have an entire party put on trial.

Balad and Zoabi had always maintained that making the case a criminal one instead of an administrative one was discriminatory, as many parties have run afoul of the campaign finance laws and simply received fines in punishment. In February, for example, the Likud was fined NIS 200,000 for exceeding legal limits on donations in previous campaigns.

“The mountain gave birth to a mouse,” the party said in reaction to the deal. “Signing the plea agreement with 13 party members alongside the attorney general’s decision to close the criminal case against the party contrary to the prosecution’s opinion, proves our cries from Day One that it was a political persecution of the party and its members.”

Balad’s official platform opposes Israel as a Jewish state, advocating instead for it to be a “binational” one. It also fully supports the creation of a Palestinian state on all lands liberated by Israel in 1967, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

Over her decade in the Knesset ending in 2019, Zoabi herself was known for her extreme language against Israel, regularly calling the government “fascist” and “racist.” She is perhaps best known for participating in – and defending – the Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010, whose activists tried to kill IDF troops who boarded the vessel when it refused to stop its attempt to break through Israel’s legal sea blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Central Elections Committee disqualified her from running for office several times based on her open incitement against the government and the IDF. The Supreme Court always overturned the decisions and allowed her to run.