The Beersheba man suspected of throwing hot tea at MK Ahmad Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) on Thursday during a rally against the controversial Prawer Plan for the resettlement of Negev Bedouin is “mentally ill,” according to his family.
The man’s brother made an appeal, carried by Israel Radio, to the Arab member of Knesset, telling him that his brother’s actions were not motivated by racism, and that he is “mentally ill,” having spent 20 years in jail for minor offenses.
“He is unaware of himself. In the past, he’s harmed himself and tried to set himself on fire. He must be treated. Prison is not the place for him,” the brother was quoted as saying.
Earlier Friday, the 47-year-old suspect appeared in the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court to face charges of assaulting a public official.
The police agreed to postpone filing the indictment following a request by the man’s attorney that he be sent for psychiatric evaluation.
“He did not intend to harm anyone. There is no racist motive here. We’re talking about a man who doesn’t even know [where the tea landed.] He is ill,” the attorney told Army Radio.
During an interview Friday morning, Tibi said that Arab members of Knesset opposed to the Prawer Plan have been suffering from an aggressive incitement campaign against them in the Knesset, and outside it, over the past few weeks.
Tibi added that where there’s incitement, there are also those who listen to such verbal violence, referring to the tea incident on Thursday from which he escaped without injury.
The attacker was immediately arrested by police officers at the event and taken in for questioning.
“Growing racism and incitement” against Arab MKs, especially around the controversial Prawer Plan, has “consequences,” Tibi had warned, according to a report in the Maariv daily.
He added that any attack on an elected official was “grave,” but said he “was not afraid” and would continue to protest the plan, even in the face of death threats.
The Prawer Plan, an initiative up for debate in the Knesset to create and recognize Bedouin townships in the Negev, which would also involve relocation of other settlements, was frozen by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week after an international and domestic outcry.
However, the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on Monday was still preparing the bill for its next Knesset reading.
Late last month, protests against the plan turned violent when demonstrators clashed with police at the Hura Junction in the Negev. Forty people were arrested and 15 police officers were injured in the incident.