Ministers advance bill allowing designation of individuals as terror operatives

Ministers of defense and justice seek to expand counterterrorism legislation first passed in 2016, to allow for individuals to be hit with same financial sanctions as terror groups

Protesters wave Hamas flags after Friday prayers of the holy month of Ramadan, at the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem's Old City, April 22, 2022. (Jamal Awad/Flash90
Protesters wave Hamas flags after Friday prayers of the holy month of Ramadan, at the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem's Old City, April 22, 2022. (Jamal Awad/Flash90

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Justice Minister Yariv Levin will bring an expanded version of Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Law to a vote in the Knesset amid the war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the two announced on Sunday afternoon.

Once passed in the Knesset, the government-sponsored amendment will allow for the State of Israel to designate individuals, rather than just organizations, as terror operatives, and ensure that they are subject to the same sanctions that have been applied to terror organizations in the past.

Originally passed in 2016, the Counter-Terrorism Law allows for the defense minister to designate an association as a terrorist organization or its activities as terrorist acts.

According to a copy of the law published on the government’s website, a terrorist organization is defined as “a body of persons in an organized and continuous structure that commits terrorist acts or that operates with the intention that terrorist acts will be committed.”

Groups that work directly or indirectly to assist terror organizations or that promote or finance their activities are also considered terrorist organizations under the Counter-Terrorism Law.

The expanded version of the law, which was advanced in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, would “thwart the financing of individuals operating in various organizations, and in particular the Hamas terrorist organization,” Gallant and Levin explained in a joint statement.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant argue during a vote on the reasonableness limitation bill in the Knesset plenum, July 24, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The amendment to the law will strengthen the administrative measures that can be used against the terrorist organizations and terrorist operatives, and will enable a more effective suppression of channels of recruitment, financing and transfer of funds for terrorist purposes,” they said.

Once a group has been defined as a terror organization, it can be financially sanctioned by the State of Israel; going forward, the same will apply to individuals designated to be terror operatives.

Touting the success of the law, the statement asserted that “the imposition of financial sanctions on terrorist organizations and terrorist operatives has been proven to be efficient and effective, as part of the struggle of the Headquarters for Economic Warfare against Terrorism in the Ministry of Defense.”

The proposal to amend the law comes as Israel enters its fourth week of war against Hamas after the terror group’s violent massacre in the south of the country on October 7, in which 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were murdered and some 228 were taken hostage.

Following the massacre, Israel declared war and said its goal was to eradicate Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, and destroy its infrastructure.

At the same time, the Israel Police has clamped down on support for the terror group inside Israel, with Police Chief Kobi Shabtai stressing that there would be “zero tolerance” for pro-Hamas demonstrations.

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