MKs on opposite ends of the political spectrum united against a bill giving the government increased authority in fighting terror in a Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee meeting Monday.
The government-proposed Bill to Fight Terror consists of over 100 pages and 134 articles seeking to “give government authorities the appropriate tools in the areas of criminal and public law to deal with [the] terrorist threats [that] Israel faces.” According to its text, this will be done by unifying all existing laws and regulations related to terror into one.
The legislation expands security forces’ authorities in fighting terror, forbids any contact with terrorist organizations – including their diplomatic arms – and increases the sentence for those committing terror related crimes to 25 years or more for the head of an organization and 15 to those in other command positions, among other changes.
The bill would also allow courts to sentence criminals to double the punishment usually given for the crime they committed, if it was related to terror.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On quoted former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, saying “the battle against terror must be fought with one hand tied behind your back.”
“Now it looks like both hands are free,” she said. “If this bill passes, it will legitimize violations of human rights. Whoever proposed this went crazy; there’s no other way to say it.”
MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) said that “one day, the terror will end, but this draconian law will remain. This is making our criminal laws crazy. It is weakening our fight against terror.”
On the Right, MK Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi) expressed opposition for the bill for different reasons, saying it includes “a list of things that prevent terror, but took out anything diplomatic.
It cannot be that action won’t be taken against organizations connected to the Palestinian Authority.
“If we declare half of the Palestinians terrorists, it won’t help us,” Yesh Atid MK Karin Alharrar said, explaining that the goal of the bill is to be balanced and help the government protect its citizens without disproportionately violating human rights.
Israel Democracy Institute representative Amir Fuchs said the bill is inappropriate and turns regulations from the time of the British Mandate into law. Fuchs pointed to an article of the bill allowing courts to accept hearsay without bringing the accused in to testify.
Deputy Attorney-General Raz Nizri said that the meeting is a discourse and he wants to hear comments, but took issue with the critics’ tone.
Nizri said “when you say a government bill is draconian, I can say that’s a baseless declaration.
In the many discussions we held in the Justice Ministry, we balanced the values of human rights and democracy with the fight against terror.”
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