Ministers back bill to expel terrorists’ families from their homes

Jewish Home leader praises legislation to forcibly relocate relatives of Palestinian attackers to other areas of West Bank despite opposition from AG, Shin Bet

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

The demolished home of a Palestinian terrorist in the village of Bayt Surik on November 15, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
The demolished home of a Palestinian terrorist in the village of Bayt Surik on November 15, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Ministers voted late Sunday night to advance legislation that would allow Israel to forcibly relocate the families of Palestinian terrorists from their homes to other areas of the West Bank.

The decision by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation came after a “lengthy and complicated” debate over the bill in the high-level Security Cabinet and “despite the opposition of the judicial authorities,” the Jewish Home party said in a statement.

According to the proposed legislation by Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev, within a week of an attack or attempted attack, the IDF’s Central Command will be permitted to expel the relatives of the Palestinian assailants from their hometowns to other parts of the West Bank.

The explanatory text accompanying the bill touts Israel’s deterrence as “the cornerstone of Israeli security and a way to save lives and uphold law and order.”

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit attends a conference at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on July 2, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Coalition sources told The Times of Israel that as well as clear opposition to the bill voiced by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, security officials also expressed reservations about the measure in the Security Cabinet meeting.

Mandeblit was said to have argued that the bill was “unconstitutional” in that the family of a terrorist could not be punished without proving they intentionally helped the attacker, while the head of the Shin Bet security service, Nadav Argamon, said the proposal would do little to increase Israel’s deterrence.

The advice, however, was ignored by Jewish Home chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett and party number two, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who nonetheless called an immediate vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, according to the coalition sources.

The committee 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 hailed the ministerial vote, saying it was “an important step in the war against terror and the restoration of deterrence.”

According to the Jewish Home leader, “Jews are murdered because participation in terror attacks has become a lucrative business, and legal considerations paralyze the defense establishment from acting.”

The comments follow 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.

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett attending a rally protesting ongoing terror attacks against Israelis in the West Bank, outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, December 16, 2018. (Courtesy)

“I am glad that we decided to pass the law, despite the vigorous opposition of the lawyers surrounding [Benjamin] Netanyahu,” he said Sunday night in an apparent attempt to blame the resistance to the bill on the prime minister, who earlier in the day he accused of being weak on combating the terror attacks.

Bennett called last week for the bill to be advanced in the wake of a spate of terror attacks this week which 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 for 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,” Bennett 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 support within the coalition, including from Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon, as well as from the opposition’s Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid.

However Mandelblit said at the time that the move would contravene Israeli and international law, and efforts to advance the legislation were subsequently dropped.

Security forces map for demolition the home of Palestinian who killed an IDF soldier, seen here in the al-Am’ari refugee camp in the West Bank, October 2, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

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.

Netanyahu, responding to the attacks Thursday, ordered a series of security measures including that the process of demolishing the homes of terrorists be expedited to take just 48 hours from the moment a decision is taken to carry out the punishment, reducing the time allotted to residents of the building to appeal against the measure. In the past, residents have usually had at least a week to appeal the controversial punitive measure in Israel’s courts.

Earlier Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation also advanced a Jewish Home proposal that would  require the state to legalize 66 illegal outposts located deep in the West Bank.

The bill is known as Regulation Law 2 and seeks to regulate hilltop communities built beyond the Green Line over the past 20 years, in light of the High Court of Justice’s freezing of the so-called Regulation Law passed in February 2017.

Fed up with the state’s handling of his proposal as it approached its two-year anniversary since being passed by the Knesset, Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich put forward Regulation Law 2, which focuses on illegal outposts that are claimed to have been built on what is considered to be state land, rather than private Palestinian land.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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