Liberman: Strike Down Ghattas Deal After His Radio Interview

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. (Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday that he was “reconsidering” a plea deal he agreed to for now-former MK Bassal Ghattas, after he gave an interview to Army Radio in which he not only did not express remorse for smuggling cell phones into an Israeli high-security prison for the benefit of terrorists, but also praised terrorists and called them “freedom fighters.”

“There was no reason to enter a plea bargain with Ghattas,” Liberman said. “What he said in his interviews just adds fuel to the fire. I do not understand the plea deal. This man should be tried and punished as a terrorist, and not be given exemptions based on exceptions” in the law.

In the interview, Ghattas, who was sentenced to two years in prison for smuggling 12 devices and 16 SIM cards into a top security prison for use by terrorists, said that he would not seek a pardon from President Reuven Rivlin. After he resigned from his Knesset seat Sunday, he spoke to Army Radio and said that he would serve his time with fellow Arab prisoners. “You call them murderers, but to me they are freedom fighters,” he said. “You Israelis are living in a bubble. I smuggled the phones in for a very simple reason – because life is intolerable for Palestinian prisoners.”

Ghattas said that a change was coming to Israeli Arabs – and not one that would impact positively on the state. “We are rethinking our strategy regarding the state,” Ghattas said. “Our presence in the Knesset is reaching its limits, as the democratic bandwidth that we thought was available in 1948 is no longer possible,” as Israeli governments have become more right-wing.

Commenting on the interview, Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer said that he hoped the plea deal would be struck. “He is not sorry for what he did, and he justifies aiding terrorism,” he told Army Radio. “Despite the evidence against him and the weight of his actions, he will remain in prison for no more than two years, probably with a third deducted for good behavior.”