Basel Ghattas, an Arab member of Israel’s Knesset who was indicted for allegedly smuggling cellphones and other materials to Palestinian security prisoners, will plead guilty and serve two years in prison as part of a plea bargain he signed with the Israeli State Attorney’s Office Thursday.
As part of the deal, Ghattas is required to resign his Knesset seat immediately. The amended indictment against the lawmaker includes charges of smuggling cellular phones into prison, violating Israel Prison Service directives, providing the means to carry out acts of terror, fraud and breach of trust. The indictment now excludes the original charge of aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.
Despite the plea deal reached Thursday, the state plans to ask the court to attribute moral turpitude to Ghattas’s offenses. Under Israeli law, a conviction carrying moral turpitude bars the individual in question from serving in public office for seven years.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel urged State Attorney Shai Nitzan to deny the plea bargain.
“Reaching a plea bargain in this case does not serve public interest. The legal proceedings in cases involving elected officials must be exhausted in a court of law,” the group wrote in a letter sent to Nitzan Thursday.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, similarly, took to social media to criticize the deal.
“I have trouble understanding why the State Attorney’s Office would suffice with two years in prison for Ghattas for aiding terrorism, when they have such solid evidence. I hope the court will opt for a far graver sentence,” Erdan tweeted.