Avi Dichter wants to expand house demolitions to attempted terror cases

Dichter said that the message of deterrence should be used on anyone who is considering an ideologically violent attack.

Bulldozer at garbage dump (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Bulldozer at garbage dump
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter butted heads with the Office of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on Wednesday over his wish to extend house demolitions to cases of nationalistically motivated, attempted murder attacks.
At a Knesset hearing about house demolitions and expulsions of Palestinians relating to Palestinian attackers, and with family members of murdered Israelis – including Miriam Fuld, wife of murdered American-Israeli Ari Fuld – in attendance, Dichter slammed the limitation on house demolitions.
He asked why the IDF was carrying out house demolitions only against Palestinian families connected to terrorist murderers, when attempted murderers were just as bad, but simply happened to have been less “successful” in accomplishing their intent.
Dichter said that the message of deterrence should be sent to anyone who is considering a violent terrorist attack.
At the hearing itself, a representative of Mandelblit’s office said that it opposes expanding house demolitions. Shortly after the hearing, his office released a detailed written legal opinion addressed to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, which explained the opposition.
Mandelblit, who personally signed the opinion, warned that expanding house demolitions could both lead to greater international criticism as well as undermine a current consensus among High Court of Justice justices which has permitted most demolitions.
He cited that top justices, including former attorney-general Menachem Mazuz, have already questioned whether demolitions serve to deter and whether they violate Israel’s domestic or international legal obligations.
Globally, Israel is already isolated on the issue, with virtually no countries supporting its argument that its house demolitions are legal.
The International Criminal Court Prosecution has repeatedly made special mention of the practice, suggesting that it may consider the practice, in some circumstances, to be a war crime.
Israel itself placed a moratorium on house demolitions from 2005 to 2014 after a defense commission found that the practice was not achieving deterrence of terrorists, but after a rise of attacks in 2014, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and top political officials switched to supporting the idea that, in the current climate, it was achieving deterrence.
Maurice Hirsch, a former IDF chief West Bank prosecutor and lawyer for the Fuld family, called the idea that house demolitions should be limited based on the outcome of an intended terrorist attack, as opposed to the terrorist’s intent, “ridiculous.”
Also at the Knesset hearing, a representative of the defense establishment disclosed that 45 house demolitions against families of terrorists have been carried out – about 30% of the total number being reviewed.
The representative said that the average time it takes to demolish a house from the time it is designated is approximately two months.
National Security Council representative Brig.-Gen. (res.) Roni Feld acknowledged that even as the government has taken a strong stand in recent years in returning to demolishing houses, often the time lapse until the demolitions actually happen is excessive.
Bat El Coleman, sister-in-law of murdered Adiel Coleman, complained that the IDF had initially approved demolishing the house of Adiel’s killer, but later relented when the killer’s family presented evidence that he was mentally disturbed.
Coleman expressed indignation that the IDF believed that someone who had passed a Shin Bet and civil administration security check to get a working permit in Israel, and who had traveled long and complex distances to carry out the attack, could be mentally incompetent.
She begged the IDF to carry out the demolition “to avoid there being more victim families.”
Other victims’ families called for both expelling the families of terrorists and for passing a law to ensure house demolitions were carried out within a much shorter period of time.