Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi entered a plea bargain with the State Attorney’s Office on Thursday under which incitement charges against her will be dropped. The charges had been leveled at the firebrand lawmaker over an incident last year during which she called Israeli Arab policemen traitors.
In exchange, she pleaded guilty to insulting a public official, will receive a three-year suspended sentence, pay a NIS 3,000 fine and send a letter of apology to the recipients of her controversial comments.
According to her attorney, Hassan Jabrin, Zoabi opted to enter the deal offered by the state to avoid a potentially lengthy legal process over public officials’ rights to free speech, Haaretz reported.
In July 2014, Zoabi accused an Arab police officer of treason against his people, a statement interpreted by officials as a call for violence against Arab-Israeli police officers.
The incident took place outside the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court, during the trial of Arabs who had been arrested at riots sparked by the murder of Mohammaed Abu Khedier by Jewish terrorists.
During the proceedings, Zoabi joined hundreds of Israeli Arabs who protested the arrests, which they claimed were arbitrary and motivated by racism against Arabs.
“Those who act against their own people should be used to mop up the floor,” she charged, adding that they “should fear” the local community’s reaction.
Initially, Zoabi argued her remarks did not amount to incitement, and claimed the charges against her were politically motivated because she spoke out against the policy of arresting Arab protesters.
During plea bargain negotiations between her lawyer, Hassan Jabrin, and state prosecutors, Zoabi issued an apology for the incident, calling it “an exception” to her usual conduct.
“I’m sorry for what I said and apologize to anyone who was offended,” she wrote in a letter earlier this year.
Zoabi has been the subject of previous incitement investigations and numerous failed attempts by fellow lawmakers to remove her from the Israeli parliament.
In August 2014, police recommended that Zoabi be put on trial for incitement, threats and abuse directed at a police officer. In June of 2015, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein approved a criminal probe into the incident.
Zoabi, a vociferous critic of the Israeli government and society, first came under fire for taking part in the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza in 2010. In 2014 she refused to label as “terrorists” the men who abducted and killed three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, setting off a chain of events that culminated in the Gaza war.
Netanyahu has repeatedly claimed Palestinian leaders’ rhetoric of incitement against Israel lies at the root of ongoing terrorism.