The Counterterrorism Bill, which passed its first reading in the Knesset
Wednesday evening, is intended to replace existing outdated terror legislation,
the Justice Ministry said Thursday.
“The Counterterrorism Law is a
necessary step to promote the fight against terror, and to upgrade the tools
available to law enforcement bodies in their struggle against terror
organizations and the social and financial infrastructures that enable their
activities,” said the Justice Ministry in a statement.
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voted in support of the proposed bill, and 11 opposed it.
Counterterrorism Bill was formulated by the Justice Ministry’s Department of
Legislative Consulting in a process that has taken over five years.
team involved in creating the bill was led by former deputy attorney general
Rachel Gottlieb with input from current Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and
his predecessor, Menachem Mazuz.
Also involved in formulating the bill
were representatives from the Ministry of Defense, the IDF, the Shin Bet
(Israeli Security Agency), the Money Laundering Prohibition Authority, the
Council for National Security and the Foreign Ministry.
members of the Israel Democracy Institute were also consulted.
the country’s existing anti-terror legislation is out-of-date.
the Counterterrorism Bill is intended to replace the Defense (Emergency)
Regulations, a set of laws first enacted in 1945 by the British Mandate as an
emergency measure following the 1936-1939 Arab revolts.
were later incorporated into Israeli legislation, but in many cases are outdated
and no longer relevant.
This old legislation “is no longer compatible
with the legal reality in Israel,” the Justice Ministry statement
“They need to be replaced by regulations that are more balanced
and proportionate, to ensure that enforcement agencies have the powers necessary
to fulfill their roles, but which do not cause disproportionate harm to
The new bill includes what the Justice Ministry has
called “modern tools” to help prevent terror organizations’
One of these “modern tools” is a new mechanism for declaring
an organization to be a terror organization.
This will apply to
organizations that work against the State of Israel, as well as foreign terror
The bill also establishes a new category of terror
offenses, relating to terror activities themselves, as well as activities that
support terror, such as recruitment and membership in a terror organization,
incitement of terrorism, and transferring funds or other means of support for
This is to prevent terror groups from expanding,
and accumulating influence among the civilian population, the Justice Ministry
The bill further calls for stringent punishment for “acts of
terror,” as well as heavy sentences for those convicted of offenses related to
assisting with terror acts.
A life-prison sentence would be extended to
those convicted of terror offenses.
Police and the courts would be given
extended powers to prevent terror, including the power to close places used by
terrorist groups. Courts would be able to order the seizure of property from
The Minister of Defense would be given new powers
to issue restraining orders against anyone connected to a terror
The bill also makes it easier for Israel to prosecute
It proposes removing the statute of limitations from terror
offenses in cases where it was not possible to prosecute terrorists because they
It also makes the legal process easier in cases where
witnesses are in enemy territory, including in Gaza.
human rights groups slammed the Counterterrorism Bill.
The Association for
Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said the bill would cause “irreparable damage to
the the human rights situation in Israel.”
Attorney Lila Margalit, ACRI’s
head of Human Rights in the Criminal Process department, said that the
regulations proposed in the bill “could turn law-abiding people and
organizations into ‘terrorists.’” “The bill gives the state Draconian and
unregulated authority to take strong measures against people and organizations
without a trial, on the basis of suspicion alone, and without minimum guarantees
that their rights will be protected,” said Margalit. “It opens the doors for
huge and improper state interference in the political discourse and freedom of
association of its citizens.”
One of the regulations proposed in the bill
that ACRI said will damage human rights is the “broad and sweeping definition”
of concepts such as “terror organization” and “terror act” and the use of
administrative detention and restraining orders without trial.
bill, terror suspects would not have to be brought before a judge for 96
In special cases, the bill permits extending the detention of a
suspect in absentia, with the consent of the Shin Bet’s head of interrogation,
the Attorney General and a Supreme Court Justice.
The bill will now be
discussed by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in
preparation for its second and third readings.