Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann added his signature on Thursday to a recommendation for President Shimon Peres to erase the criminal records of some 40 people arrested during protests against the Gaza disengagement in 2005. The proposed pardons would be granted to those arrested for minor, first-time offenses, such as taking part in an illegal gathering and preventing police officers from fulfilling their duties. The pardons would not be given to those who received prison sentences or who have previous arrests listed in their criminal records. The Justice Ministry said in a statement the recommendation resulted from an understanding that the offenses were carried out during a highly unusual historical event. Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev, who headed the police's Southern District during the disengagement and oversaw the policing of the operation, has backed the move. Bar-Lev views those who would be pardoned by the bill as upstanding citizens, not law breakers, and has described them as individuals who crossed the delicate line of legitimate protest during a historically traumatic period. He has said in the past that no injuries resulted from the offenses, and that the youths who were arrested should be allowed to turn over a new leaf. Following the disengagement, Bar-Lev convinced many of the youths who were uprooted from Gaza to join the IDF and to serve in some of the army's most elite units. Bar-Lev reportedly believes that pardoning the protesters is part of a series of essential steps aimed at preventing a split within the Israeli people, and at fostering reconciliation with former Gaza residents.