Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) on Wednesday formally submitted a bill to the Knesset to deport families of Palestinian terrorists to the Gaza Strip — a controversial proposal that has also won the backing of former top security official Yaakov Peri.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week instructed Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to check the legality of the measure.
The bill would allow the Israeli government to deport families of Palestinian attackers from the West Bank, if they were aware of their relatives’ plans, encouraged them, or aided them in some way.
The proposed legislation garnered broad support from coalition Knesset members, with lawmakers from the Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Kulanu, Jewish Home signed on to the bill. From the opposition, Yisrael Beytenu MKs and Yesh Atid’s Lapid and Peri were also signatories.
“The State of Israel is in the middle of a terror wave that has lasted over six months,” said Peri, who headed the Shin Bet security agency before becoming a Yesh Atid Knesset member. “Using the legal tools of deporting families of terrorists will serve as a certain deterrent, but isn’t sufficient as a real solution to the terror wave, which fuels itself, and we must at the same time work to change the atmosphere.”
The bill was also backed by Lapid, who indicated he would support the government despite sitting in the opposition, given a wave of terror attacks.
“We must work together to give the security forces all the tools at their disposal to fight terror,” he said.
Hundreds of attacks by Palestinians over the past several months have left 29 Israelis and four foreign nationals dead, and hundreds more injured. Tuesday and Wednesday saw a renewed spate of attacks, including two shootings in Jerusalem and a deadly stabbing spree in Jaffa.
Netanyahu last week said he was seeking to expel the families of West Bank Palestinians who attack Israelis to the Gaza Strip.
“Many terror attacks in recent months were carried out by terrorists who fit into the profile of ‘lone attackers.’ These attackers come from families that support and assist their actions,” Netanyahu wrote in a letter seeking Mandelblit’s opinion on the matter.
“I am requesting your legal opinion regarding the possibility of expelling family members that support terror to Gaza,” Netanyahu wrote. “I am convinced that such a measure will lead to a significant decrease in the number of terror attacks against the State of Israel, its citizens and its residents.”
Right-wing politicians have long called for the deportation of attackers’ family members, including senior ministers from Netanyahu’s own Likud party. Only a few days earlier, Mandelblit shot down this idea in response to a query from Likud ministers, arguing that it would contravene Israeli and international law.
The ministers have raised the expulsion option during cabinet meetings in recent weeks amid five months of near-daily attacks by Palestinians on Israeli civilians and security forces, Army Radio reported Sunday.
A source who was present during the debates claimed that it was only Mandelblit’s objection that is preventing the policy from being implemented.
Israel currently uses home demolitions against families of attackers, saying the measure is meant to deter attacks. Critics say the demolitions are a form of collective punishment.