In a decision that guarantees continued controversy between the government and right-wingers, the Lod District Court on Sunday upheld the administrative detention order for Jewish settler activist Meir Ettinger.
Unless an expected appeal to the Supreme Court succeeds in striking it down, the order issued by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on August 15 will continue until mid-February, at which point it will be revisited.
Ettinger’s lawyer, Yuval Zemer, said he was not surprised by Sunday’s decision since “an Israeli court never rejects a request” to place people in administrative detention.
“As we expected, the court... essentially surrendered to the collection of reports and drafts that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) presented to it,” Zemer said, adding that had “accepted a notable number of our claims,” including that Ettinger “himself was never involved in a violent act.”
Zemer works for Honenu, a right-wing organization that, according to its website, provides legal representation for “soldiers and civilians who find themselves in legal entanglements due to defending themselves against Arab aggression, or due to their love for Israel....”
He called the entire process “political” and said the administrative detention order had been “directed at satisfying the public in Israel and globally, and was not a detention that made sense” according to standard legal approaches and tools.
The Justice Ministry responded to the ruling by noting that “according to the intelligence information in the hands of the Shin Bet and presented before the court, Ettinger stood at the head of an organization whose name in and of itself has the purpose of uprooting the foundations of the democratic rule in the State of Israel. Members of the same organization appear to be responsible for hate crimes, including the arson of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem and the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes near Tiberias.”
The ministry statement concluded that the court had accepted the state’s premise that both the organization and Ettinger fundamentally “constituted an immediate and present danger to state security,” and that their activities did not fall within the spectrum of legitimate free speech and activism.
In ordering the arrest of Ettinger, Ya’alon also ordered the administrative detention of two other Jewish activists, Mordechai Mayer and Evyatar Slonim. This form of arrest is typically used only for Palestinians suspected of violence.
The decrees were signed due to the suspects’ “involvement in extremist Jewish organizations,” a source close to the defense minister said.
The orders came at the advice of the Shin Bet, which is in the midst of a crackdown on alleged Jewish terrorism in the wake of a deadly arson attack on a Palestinian home in the West Bank village of Duma in August.
At the time of the arrests, Judea and Samaria District police said that officers from the anti-nationalist crimes unit had taken part in raids on a number of outposts in the Binyamin region, including Adei Ad, as part of their ongoing investigation against suspected Jewish terrorists.Ben Hartman and Yaakov Lappin contributed to this story.