Israeli Arab lawmaker gets light prison sentence after aiding terrorists

Lawmakers are slamming the light sentence given to an Arab-Israeli colleague who committed a serious security-related crime.

Former Member of Knesset (MK) Basel Ghattas, an Israeli-Arab lawmaker of the Joint Arab List, began serving a two year prison term on Sunday after pleading guilty to charges that he had used his parliamentary immunity to help imprisoned Palestinians commit more acts of terror.

Ghattas was convicted in March of giving cellphones to imprisoned senior terrorists of the Hamas and Fatah terror organizations incarcerated at Ketziot Prison in December and of taking written messages to them.

Police exposed surveillance footage showing Ghattas transferring envelopes to inmates. Twelve cellphones and 16 SIM cards were discovered in the envelopes. The phones were meant to be used to coordinate terror activities from within the prison.

Ghattas Keeps ‘Head Held High’

Ghattas, who was accompanied to the gates of the Gelboa Prison with a small group of supporters and other Arab MKs, stated that he was entering prison with his “head held high” and with “support from my people.”

Ghattas, who resigned from the Knesset, received his sentence as part of a plea bargain. Several ministers and Knesset members slammed the fairly short prison term, saying it was too lenient.

“I find it difficult to understand why the prosecution is satisfied with only two years in prison for Ghattas over acts of assisting to terrorism, when the evidence is so solid. I hope the court will impose a much worse sentence,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan wrote on Twitter.

Ghattas “tried to help a terrorist and thus put many lives at risk. Two years?” Erdan exclaimed, pointing out that those guilty of non-security-related crimes are often given harsher sentences.

MK Robert Ilatov also criticized the deal, saying, “This is a very light punishment that will severely impair deterrence and encourage such despicable actions in the future.”

Ghattas “will be released from prison after only two years, and will be considered a hero and a righteous fighter by all those who wish to annihilate the State of Israel,” he continued. ”This is not the message we want to convey to traitors and spies who are constantly working for the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Ghattas will be replaced in the Knesset by Jamaa Azbarga, 59, of Lakiya, a Bedouin town in the South. A father of nine, Azbarga is a former employee of the Maccabi Healthcare Services. He promoted ties between the healthcare provider and the Bedouin sector prior to his retirement four years ago.

Azbarga, like Ghattas, belongs to the Balad party in the Joint Arab List faction.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News