Disengagement protesters to be pardoned

MK Rivlin hopes purging criminal records of those arrested in 2005 protests will "help repair tears."

disengagement 248.88  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
disengagement 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Knesset on Monday passed into law a bill that will purge the criminal records of many people who were arrested during the 2005 anti-disengagement protests.
The Disengagement Pardons Law sailed through its second and third readings, passing both by a vote of 51 to 9.
The bill had been sponsored by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin during the previous Knesset, and was supported by 34 MKs from all Knesset factions, other than Meretz and the three Arab parties.
"I believe that the pardons law will help repair the tears and heal the deep wound in Israeli society that was caused by disengagement, which is still bleeding and searching for healing," Rivlin said, before the vote.
"There are days on which democracy must be forgiving and leave the burdens of the past behind," he continued.  "Disengagement was a national trauma, and it is impossible to compare it to any other social crisis. I believe that passing the law will help to correct the injustice that was done to the evacuees, who paid the price of democracy in the heaviest manner possible."
The law will apply to approximately 400 of the 482 people against whom criminal files were open during the disengagement. The majority of these were juveniles and young adults who were accused of minor offenses, and who had already fulfilled the terms of their sentences.
Erasing their records will remove an obstacle the former protesters might face in finding jobs and serving in elite IDF units, Rivlin said.
Under the law, the sentencing process will be stopped for anyone who has already been convicted of an offense committed during the protests, and charges will be dropped against those whose proceedings have not moved past the indictment stage.
The law will not, however, pardon those convicted of more serious offenses, including endangering human lives, explosives-related crimes, serious violence, or anyone who had a prior criminal record.
The bill was approved in its preliminary reading in July 2007 and passed its first reading one year later. The Justice Ministry supported the bill.
Throughout the entire legislative process, Rivlin reiterated that he would have preferred that the slates would have been cleaned without the Knesset having to legislate it, saying that presidential pardons in accordance with Justice Ministry recommendations would have been better.