The Knesset plenum .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A wide-reaching law codifying the government’s response to terrorism passed 57-16 on Wednesday evening, after six years of negotiations and review in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
The law, which the committee debated intensely since the fall but dates back to 2010, creates a new catalogue of offenses to match up with “the modern challenges of terrorism.”
After the law passed, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said “the terrorist attacks in Orlando and Tel Aviv show that, more than ever, terrorism can’t be allowed. There are no excuses.
Terrorism can only be defeated with appropriate punishments and deterrents. The 2016 model of terrorism will receive a 2016 response.”
Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) pointed out that the bill cancels 60 British Mandatory emergency statutes, and instead builds on Israel’s experience in fighting terrorism.
“The law that passed today in the plenum shows how to fight terrorism uncompromisingly, while protecting human rights,” he said.
Though the bill had support from some in the opposition, some disagreed with Slomiansky’s assessment that it protects human rights.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal- On said she supports fighting terrorism, but the battle must be undertaken morally.
“The challenge in a democratic state is to fight terrorism while protecting basic rights,” she said.
“Whoever tries to use terrorism in Paris or Orlando to act like all terrorism is a result of radical Islam is trying to remove responsibility for 49 years of occupation, the fuel and the motivation of terror.”
Gal-On called the law “racist and totalitarian.”
Joint List MKs Ahmad Tibi and Osama Sa’adi released a joint statement saying the bill is “draconian in that it expands security services’ authority and the occupation rule, while blocking the right to resist the occupation.”
MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) said the law “has one goal: to prevent citizens from criticizing, expressing opinions and starting a grassroots political struggle against the occupation, encourage boycotts and think outside the box.”
Saying the law institutes a “thought police,” Zoabi claimed it could lead to someone being convicted of terrorism over a Facebook post.
For the first time, the law lists as a specific crime the digging of attack tunnels. It also mandates that a conviction for being a terrorist mastermind – even if the person did not participate in his minions’ terrorist acts – carries a lifetime prison sentence.
Previously, masterminds often received lighter sentences because prosecutors had to attempt ad hoc to fit the crime into other old-school offenses on the books.
Those using biological and chemical weapons for terrorist purposes can also receive a life sentence.
Charity groups which indirectly but substantially contribute to terrorist groups can be declared illegal, and many categories of those involved in such groups can be sent to prison by association.
Here, the law’s concept was to better stop terrorism financing by cutting through straw-man companies which might serve dual legal and illegal purposes.
Connected to those efforts, the defense minister can now seize financial assets even before indictment and conviction, if the assets relate to terrorism, much the same way he can issue administrative detention orders. Until now assets could only be seized at the indictment and conviction stages.
In addition, those funding terrorists can be fined up to 20 times the amount for which they were convicted of providing to terrorist groups.
This radical change recognizes that today’s terrorists may sometimes be more deterred by losing money than by prison sentences.
Finally, the bill makes it harder for serious terrorists to obtain parole, with those receiving life terms only eligible to petition for parole after 15 years, and only able to leave prison after 40 years in jail.
At the same time, the bill does not block future Gilad Schalit-type prisoner exchanges.Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.