(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit for his legal opinion regarding deportation of the families of terrorists, just days after Mandelblit was quoted as opposing such measures.
In an unusual move and a clear indication of how politically charged this issue has become, with some of Netanyahu’s challengers on his Right supporting the idea, the Prime Minister’s Office released the premier’s letter to Mandelblit that included an endorsement of such sanctions.
“Many of the terrorist acts over the past few months were carried out by those who fit the profile of ‘lone attackers,’” Netanyahu wrote.
“These attackers sometimes come from families who encourage and support their actions.”
The prime minister said he was asking for Mandelblit’s “legal opinion” regarding the possibility of deporting these families to the Gaza Strip.
“I think that the use of this tool will significantly decrease terrorist attacks against Israel and its residents,” he said.
Army Radio reported on Sunday that Mandelblit has come out against deportation of terrorists’ families, saying that it violates both Israeli and international law. He also was cited as saying it could play into the hands of Israeli adversaries who would use it to bring war crimes charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court.
Netanyahu has reportedly expressed support in internal Likud meetings for the sanction.
Mandelblit’s office said in response to Netanyahu’s letter that an update on the matter would be provided when there is an official answer. The Jerusalem Post
has learned, however, that the attorney-general does not intend to change his position.
Intelligence Services Minister Israel Katz, who initiated the debate on expelling terrorists’ families when he called for the move on Saturday, praised Netanyahu for adopting his initiative. Katz said he would propose a bill on Monday, sponsored by both coalition and opposition MKs, that would change the law and permit the deportations.
“With the government’s support, we can change the law quickly,” Katz wrote on his Facebook page. “Then we will be able to handle the international pressure.”
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel nongovernmental organization released a statement explaining why it is already legally possible to expel the family members of terrorists.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also endorsed the initiative. If legal authorities permit it, law enforcement authorities and intelligence agencies will be able to carry it out, he said.
“We are doing everything possible to stop the terrorist attacks,” Erdan told Army Radio. “We have taken many steps, and this is one more we would like to take. Knowing family members will be harmed when there is proof that they supported the attacks could decrease the chance that more such attacks will be carried out in the future.”
But former defense minister MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) criticized the idea and said that to end terrorism, diplomatic steps were required.
“This is a populist move among Likudniks competing over who could be more extreme,” Peretz said. “It may satisfy the public but it won’t help the fight against terrorism.”Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.