Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Monday his official opposition to a bill that would allow the forcible relocation of the families of Palestinian terrorists from their homes, warning that the proposal could infringe on human rights and spark international condemnation of Israel.
As part of a series of measures targeting Palestinian perpetrators of attacks, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted Sunday to advance a bill by Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev that would permit the IDF’s Central Command to expel the relatives of Palestinian assailants from their hometowns to other parts of the West Bank within a week of an attack or attempted attack.
The explanatory text accompanying the bill lauds Israel’s deterrence as “the cornerstone of Israeli security and a way to save lives and uphold law and order.”
In a statement released following press queries on whether Mandelblit had advised ministers not to vote to advance the bill, the attorney general’s office said the measures in the proposal “severely infringe upon the liberty and property of the family members who are slated for deportation, due to the act of another family member and without proof that [the family] also poses a danger.”
According to Mandelblit, the current law allows for Israel to “assign a place of residence” to Palestinians citizens “only if there is a specific threat from that person… and after examining the proportionality” of expelling them from their home.
“There is therefore a constitutional impediment to advancing the proposed legislation,” the statement said.
“The proposal also raises significant challenges on the international level,” it added, referring to potential blowback from passing the law.
The Jewish Home party said on Sunday that the bill was approved by ministers after a “lengthy and complicated” debate in the high-level security cabinet “despite the opposition of the judicial authorities.”
The statement from the attorney general’s office noted that “arguments suggesting that the position of the attorney general harms state security are entirely baseless.”
Speaking at his Likud party’s faction meeting at the Knesset shortly after Mandelblit’s statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told lawmakers that he favored the expulsion of terrorists from their homes, though he did not mention their families.
“Expulsion of terrorists is an effective tool. In my opinion, its benefit exceeds its damage,” Netanyahu said, according to Likud party sources. “The jurists say that this is contrary to the accepted legal process, and this will certainly be challenged later on, but I have no doubt about the effectiveness of this tool.”
Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett praised the decision of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, saying, “Jews are murdered because participation in terror attacks has become a lucrative business, and legal considerations paralyze the defense establishment from acting.”
The comments followed recent arguments by Bennett that the army has become too concerned with the legalities of war to fight effectively. At a Sunday morning rally calling for a tougher response to recent terror attacks in the West Bank, Bennett claimed that a consequence of that concern was Israel’s failure to destroy the homes of terrorists immediately after attacks are committed.
Coalition sources told The Times of Israel that in addition to the opposition voiced by Mandelblit, security officials expressed reservations about the measure in the security cabinet meeting, including the head of the Shin Bet security service, Nadav Argamon, who said the proposal would do little to increase Israel’s deterrence.
The committee nonetheless voted to grant coalition support for the bill, meaning that coalition members would be obliged to support it in all further readings in the Knesset, but there was no decision about when an initial vote would take place. Since the proposal was a private member’s bill and not official government legislation, it will require an initial vote in the Knesset plenary before three additional readings.
Bennett had called last week for the bill to be advanced in the wake of a spate of terror attacks this week that killed two IDF soldiers and a baby born prematurely after his mother was shot, and injured nine other Israelis.
Bennett had tried to bring the same expulsion legislation to a committee vote at the beginning of November but it was put off. “The Palestinian terrorist must understand that violence doesn’t pay and the State of Israel will settle the score,” he said at the time. “Deporting the families to another area will improve deterrence and send the message to the Palestinian public: There is zero tolerance for terrorism.”
The proposed legislation comes after years in which the government sought to advance a bill to expel terrorists’ families to the Gaza Strip. Supported by Netanyahu, the proposal in 2016 received wide backing within the coalition, including from Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon, as well as from the opposition’s Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid.
A number of other measures used by Israel as deterrent measures, such as home demolitions, closing off hometowns of attackers, and revoking work permits, have been criticized as a form of collective punishment. Israel says the measures are necessary as disincentives to terrorism.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.