Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi has been sentenced to eight months in prison for slapping and kicking a pair of Israeli soldiers outside her West Bank home, capping a case that sparked uproar in Israel, turned the 17-year-old girl into a Palestinian hero and attracted international attention.
Ms Tamimi’s Israeli lawyer, Gaby Lasky, said Ms Tamimi agreed to the sentence as part of a plea deal with prosecutors that allowed her to avoid more serious charges that could have imprisoned her for years. She is also being fined the equivalent of about $1,800.
The soldiers had deployed during a weekly Palestinian protest in the village against Israeli policy on settlements in the West Bank — one of the most heated issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ahed Tamimi’s case gained international attention and changed many people’s view of Palestinian resistance in the West Bank. (AP: Mahmoud Illean)
Ms Tamimi was 16 at the time of the offence. Her trial began last month and she faced 12 charges, including aggravated assault.
Ms Lasky said that under the plea agreement, Ms Tamimi would plead guilty to a reduced charge sheet and would be sentenced to eight months in jail.
The judge agreed to a similar plea deal for Ms Tamimi’s mother Nariman, who has been charged with incitement.
“This is injustice, this court is designed to oppress the Palestinians,” Ms Tamimi’s father Bassem said.
He said they agreed to the deal because they had been threatened with three years in jail.
An Israeli supporter of Ms Tamimi slapped a prosecutor after the ruling and was later arrested by police.
‘The Rosa Parks of Palestine’
Ahed Tamimi started protesting when she was about 7 or 8 years old, her father said. (Supplied: Dylan Collins)
The case drew global attention. Amnesty International called Ms Tamimi the “Rosa Parks of Palestine”, and the small courtroom was often packed with journalists, diplomats and international observers during hearings, in which Ms Tamimi was led into court in shackles.
A group of American cultural figures, including actors Danny Glover and Rosario Dawson and novelist Alice Walker, signed a petition calling for her release and comparing her case to those of the children of immigrants and communities of colour who face police brutality in the United States.
An Israeli official’s revelation that he had once had Parliament investigate whether the blond, blue-eyed Tamimis are “real” Palestinians drew accusations of racism and helped stoke additional interest in the case.
The case touches on what constitutes legitimate resistance to Israel’s rule over millions of Palestinians, now in its 51st year, in territories it captured in the 1967 war.
“No justice under occupation, and we are in an illegal court,” Ms Tamimi said to reporters in court.
And the case has also drawn attention to Israel’s military court system, which is used to try Palestinians in the West Bank. Israeli West Bank settlers, on the other hand, are tried under Israeli civilian courts.
The duelling justice systems have drawn criticism from international rights groups.
The military courts have a near 100 per cent conviction rate, in part because so many Palestinians agree to plea bargains.
Critics say the system gives Palestinians few rights, and they are often coerced into plea deals.
Hundreds of Palestinian minors are processed by the military court system each year.
“Ahed will be home in a few months, but Israel is putting this child behind bars for eight months for calling for protests and slapping a soldier, after threatening her with years in jail,” Human Rights Watch Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said.
Fears Israeli military looks weak
Ms Tamimi’s supporters see a brave girl who struck the soldiers in anger after having just learned that Israeli troops seriously wounded a 15-year-old cousin, shooting him in the head from close range with a rubber bullet during nearby stone-throwing clashes.
But in Israel, she is seen either as a naive youth manipulated by her elders or a threat to Israel’s military deterrence.
Israel treated Ms Tamimi’s actions as a criminal offence, indicting her on charges of assault and incitement that carry up to 14 years in prison.
The incident prompted criticism from right-wing Israelis that the military looked weak by allowing the teenager to strike a soldier and an officer with impunity.
“The honour of Israel’s army cannot be trampled,” Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev said on her Facebook page after the incident.
“We cannot have a situation in which soldiers are humiliated and hit and they do not act at that moment and arrest those who hurt them.”
The army said the soldier reacted professionally by showing restraint.
Tamimi the new face of Palestinian resistance
Ms Tamimi’s family are veterans of protests against an Israeli settlement near their home in Nabi Saleh. An Israeli watchtower stands at the entrance to the village and there are often soldiers in the area.
“When the European people see my daughter, blonde and blue-eyed, they are shaken, because they saw their children in front of them. It broke the stereotyped image of the Palestinian in the international community,” Bassem said.
Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Most countries consider as illegal the Israeli settlements built in the territory, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Israel disputes that its settlements are illegal and says their future should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.
Negotiations collapsed in 2014 and efforts by the White House to restart them have showed little progress so far.
A Palestinian girl, believed to be Ahed Tamimi, bites an Israeli soldier. (Reuters: Mohamad Torokman)