An Israeli Arab man was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison yesterday for giving Hezbollah information about the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff.

Rawi Sultani, a 23-year-old resident of Tira who frequented the same Kfar Sava gym as IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, was charged late last year with collecting information about the chief of staff's routine and giving it to an enemy agent.

In their verdict, Petah Tikva District Court judges Menachem Finkelstein, Liora Brody and Ofer Grosskopf said "the worrisome phenomenon of attempts to draft young Israeli citizens to work for terror organizations or enemy states" deserved a severe response.

Sultani made contact with a Lebanese man, Salman Hareb, when he went to Ifrane, Morocco in August 2008 as a delegate of the Balad political movement to an international Arab youth convention.

Hareb said he was a Hezbollah activist and showed Hezbollah films about the Second Lebanon War on his computer. While watching the films, Sultani mentioned that he worked out at the same gym as Ashkenazi.

After Sultani returned to Israel, Hareb contacted him and suggested they meet again in Poland, and that Sultani provide details about the chief of staff's schedule and IDF bases. They did so, and Sultani gave Hareb details about security at the country club where the gym is located and Ashkenazi's workout schedule.

Although the judges determined Sultani's actions had been dangerous, they said extenuating circumstances justified a plea bargain, since Sultani had no criminal record and was immature, easy prey for a "sophisticated enemy."

The judges also noted that when Sultani returned from Poland, he tried to avoid communication with his handlers and gave them false information, and that he had expressed deep regret for his actions.

Attorney Foad Sultani, Rawi Sultani's father, who represented him during the trial, told Haaretz after sentencing that the security establishment had blown the story out of proportion. He noted that the prosecution had eventually removed the conspiracy charge from the indictment in the plea bargain.

Calling the case "political persecution of my son," Sultani said that if a Jew had been convicted of the same charges - contact with an enemy agent and giving information to the enemy - he would have gotten off with a warning.