Israeli army troops outside Od Yosef Chai yeshiva
Israeli Border Police troops outside Od Yosef Chai yeshiva, Yitzhar, West Bank, April 11, 2014. Photo by Moti Milrod
Text size

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is in favor of issuing administrative arrest warrants against extreme right-wing activists in the territories following the recent events in Yitzhar. It is regrettable that it took violence against Israel Defense Forces soldiers for a decision to be made to take determined action against the violence of right-wing activists, which comes after years of law-breaking on their part in actions against the Palestinian population. This violence has for many years been part of the ongoing takeover by settlers of Palestinian lands, carried out under the watchful eye of the state, and with its assistance.

But administrative arrests are a draconian step that must be rejected. They can be justified only when there is clear-cut concern that a person might commit a dangerous act and there is no other way to prevent it. It is an extraordinarily severe preventive measure, which must be taken rarely and when there is no other choice, because it is done without trial and requires no proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This process can deviate from evidentiary rules; it takes place behind closed doors and sometimes even the individuals under arrest are not shown the materials that led to their detention, which prevents them from being able to defend themselves properly.

With regard to the violence of extreme right-wing activists, administrative arrest is proposed as a magic solution and a substitute for dealing thoroughly with years of neglect to enforce the law. According to reports of the human rights group Yesh Din, the overwhelming majority of investigations of settlers who harmed Palestinians and their property are closed due to the failure of investigators to locate the offenders, or to collect enough evidence to put them on trial. These reports have indicated shortcomings in the quality of the investigations — that actions which should have been taken were not, and often that the authorities refrained or seemed to refrain from investigating at all.

Before such an extreme and disproportionate legal tool as administrative arrest is used, the state should stop shutting its eyes to what is going on over the Green Line and correct the basic failures in the way the law is enforced against right-wing violence. It must do this by means of the high road, not a road that itself violates human rights.