The Israeli Knesset was expected to advance Wednesday a controversial bill that significantly broadens the definition of terrorism and toughens punishment for many offenses deemed terror-related.
The bill widens the definition of terrorist acts and organizations and lengthens punishments for terror-related offenses, Haaretz reported.
It was expected to pass its first reading (of three), although opposition leaders criticized aspects of the bill and said they had not been given sufficient time to review its details, as they only received a copy of the legislation on Monday.
The government’s National Security Council decided to push the law in the Knesset in light of a recent firebombing attack in the West Bank town of Duma, allegedly committed by Jewish extremists, in which a Palestinian baby and his father were killed.
The bill includes in its definition of terrorism threats of terrorist activity and does not differentiate between acts committed against civilians or soldiers.
Senior lawmakers from the opposition Zionist Union party said most of the party was expected to support the bill in the upcoming vote, according to Haaretz.
“How could we explain to the public that we voted against a comprehensive, updated bill whose purpose is fighting terror?” asked one unnamed Zionist Union Knesset member.
He added that Tzipi Livni, second in the leadership of the Zionist Union, had backed the bill in the previous Knesset and was expected to support the bill Wednesday.
The anonymous lawmaker added that while he objected to parts of the bill, he supported its passing, saying that it could later be modified in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
Livni said the bill provided “a full an comprehensive response to combat terrorism,” adding that passing it was “the right and duty of a democracy to its citizens.”
The left-wing Meretz party was expected to fight the bill, which was strongly criticized by party leader Zahava Gal-on.
“Everyone wants to fight terrorism, but also when fighting terrorism it is forbidden to sacrifice basic values of state law and basic human rights,” she said.
“It is unacceptable to anchor in legislation totalitarian powers such as administrative detentions and restraining orders, and use undemocratic means such as confidential information and confidential evidence,” she added.
According to the new bill, the punishment for threatening to perform a terrorist act is equal to performing such an act. The bill also doubles punishment for terror-related activities, to up to 30 years in prison.
The legislation states that anyone who expresses solidarity with a terrorist group will faces up to three years’ incarceration. That includes organizations that support but do not commit acts of terror and Palestinian charities affiliated with Hamas.
Anyone over the age of 12 can be prosecuted for terrorist involvement, and a wide range of activities — including wearing a shirt with a terror organization’s name on it — constitute such involvement.
The bill establishes the use of anti-terror tools in non-emergency situations, including allowing the Shin Bet security services to use computer services to monitor those suspected of involvement in terror activities, with the approval of the prime minister.
Since the bill’s inception five years ago, it has been approved by previous Knessets, although it was stalled for a time by the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. It subsumes all previous anti-terror laws and would replace legislation from the British Mandate-era, before the State of Israel was established.
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