Despite the initial media coverage of Israel bringing back a citizen who crossed into Syria being positive, there is now growing criticism.
One argument says that regardless of whether it was worthwhile or necessary to return the woman who crossed into enemy territory on her own accord, she should nevertheless be indicted.
Israeli law prohibits citizens from traveling to enemy states, prohibits citizens of enemy states to cross into Israel, and prohibits Israelis from doing business with enemy states without special governmental permission.
Syria is on the list of enemy states, and quite a few Israeli-Arabs who have crossed into Syria and returned were indicted for their action.
In 2007, three Israeli journalists were questioned by police for illegally crossing into either Syria or Lebanon. Although the journalists framed the questioning as oppressing freedom of the press, the police took the cases very seriously.
So while the Israeli woman brought back from Syria may have brought Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu some good press, should she be indicted anyway? Or could she receive some kind of fine or administrative penalty for what she cost the state to bring her back?
The state prosecution refused to address the issues, but indicated that it might yet consider punishment.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) questioned the woman but then released her to the police, apparently believing that there was no intent to commit terrorist activity or to spy, but she was merely seeking adventure or her nominally harmless ideological goal of visiting Arabs in different places to build bridges.
Former Tel Aviv District Court Judge Oded Mudrick said that this was an “insignificant issue. As long as the purpose was not security related and did not relate to a security risk, it is doubtful if there is a need to bring her to trial.”
Mudrick qualified his ruling saying that the approach toward the woman might be stricter if it is proven that she is a repeat offender and a potential future repeat offender.
From the woman’s Facebook page we learn that she has spent time in parts of the Palestinian Authority areas where Israelis are prohibited from entering, though it is unclear if that excursion would be treated the same as entering an enemy territory like Syria.
It is also clear from her Facebook page that she is ideologically committed to crossing Israeli borders even into areas where there are barriers to prevent access.
With the issue potentially borderline, the politics of not wishing to rain on a political victory for the prime minister could also come into play.
Alternatively, she might be charged with some very minor crime, or administrative fine, or punishment under the radar and without any serious repercussions.