Adrian Agassi is best known as the tireless lawyer of the families of murder victims Asher and Yonatan Palmer who has aided in securing murder convictions against their rock-throwing assailants.
The Palmers were killed by a group of Palestinians in a widely publicized rock-throwing incident in 2011.
But Agassi, a one-time relatively lenient IDF West Bank Court judge, may also be on the verge of founding a new right-wing party that, among other things, calls for establishing the Third Temple and large-scale annexations of disputed post-1967 territory.
How did Agassi, on a shortlist of IDF judges who have acquitted Palestinians of murder charges and reduced security detainees administrative detention, go from lenient to viewing even the Bayit Yehudi party as weak and a sellout? While it was a gradual process over his 20 years in the IDF, during 10 of which he was an IDF West Bank Court judge, one particular story fleshes out some of that process.
In 2008, Agassi reduced the administrative detention of a Palestinian man – whom the state wanted to hold for a long period – from six months to three months. More than just the reduction in itself, such reduction orders, which are not frequent, signal to the state that it will not be allowed to indefinitely continue the detention for repeated six-month periods.
Agassi said that he “did not feel that the evidence relating to [the Palestinian] was of a military nature, but [involved] more general activity,” such as activism in increasing awareness of terrorists’ ideology, recruiting and other nonmilitary activity.
Agassi went on to tell that the defense appealed and succeeded in reducing the detention from three months to two months.
Then Agassi said that “shortly after, he perpetrated a bombing attack” in the Jerusalem area.
Although Agassi said that, based on the technical legal rules of the game, “given the same evidence today, I would have had to make the same decision,” the experience and similar ones clearly made an impression on him.
He said that he “realized we are in a war for 4,000 years.
The dispute is not a political one, about borders. The dispute is about our existence and mission as the Jewish people to do tikkun olam, world rectification.”
Agassi said that in order to repair the world, Jews should follow a revised version of Lehi’s 18 principles, including that Jews need to “return to the homeland and rebuild the Third Temple to reconnect the physical to the metaphysical for the benefit of the nation and all mankind.”
He added that only with the Third Temple built will the “world realize that only through the spirit can mankind save itself,” with the alternative being eventually that the “Jewish people and the whole world could be destroyed.”
Despite his strong opinions about rebuilding the Third Temple in the very near future, including removing the mosques on the Temple Mount, Agassi said he opposed other radicals seeking to accomplish this in a more violent way.
He evaded giving an exact program for accomplishing his goal, but suggested that others could be persuaded of the righteousness of his views.
Another of Agassi’s 18 principles was his view that Israel should annex all disputed areas a more prevalent view – even in some establishment right-wing parties, particularly with regard to the Jordan Valley – than his views on rebuilding the Temple.
He said that whether it was the Bible, the Balfour Declaration or the San Remo Conference, he believed the Jews have superior claims under any applicable law to both pre- and post-1967 Israel.
Agassi said that England violated international law after the San Remo Conference by abrogating the Jews’ exclusive rights to the land and added that Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank after the 1948 War of Independence was declared illegal by the entire world except for England itself and Pakistan.
Agassi continued by saying that either the West Bank was a legal vacuum, as opposed to occupied territory, or that the Jewish people had a preferred right and declared that “we are the ones who made the Palestinians into a people” through recognizing them.
Confronted with how Israel could cope with expected backlash, including from the US, from rebuilding a Third Temple and annexing the post-1967 disputed areas, he said, “We will rely on God” and “America needs us more than we need them.”
Pressed about the billions of dollars in defense aid and other large perks Israel gets from coordinating policy with the US, he said, “When we are united in a common cause, we can accomplish anything,” and argued that Israel survived in 1948 with no foreign help, so it should be able to do so now when it is far stronger.
Agassi does not seem to have a concrete political action plan besides his carefully crafted ideology, but he does have a bit more of a platform having been in the headlines representing the Palmer family.
How did he get involved in such an unusual case in the IDF West Bank Courts? Agassi has a unique practice. He said that since he has a good pension and income, he can afford to be choosy about cases and only takes interesting cases defending the underdog or with public elements to them.
In one case he is defending a kollel (an institute for advanced study of the Talmud and rabbinic literature) against eviction by the IDF from a mobile home next to the Tomb of Samuel, but, defying categorization, he is also representing an Arab who is under threat of house demolition by the civil administration.
He said that two years ago he got a telephone call from Asher Palmer’s father, Michael, who said that he was very unsatisfied with how slow the case against Asher’s killers was moving and that the IDF prosecution appeared ready to drop or not fight hard for the murder charge (wanting instead to try for a conviction for a lesser charge).
He told Agassi that the prosecution was very concerned that there was no precedent for murder convictions (as opposed to manslaughter) stemming from rock throwing.
Palmer said he wanted “some control and influence inside the system.”
Agassi said that despite the odds of setting a new precedent with a murder conviction for stone throwing, his typical self-assuredness and faith remained strong that what he viewed as his just cause would win out.