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The Knesset Interior and Environment Committee is set to resume debate today on a government-sponsored bill to allow public and private entities to pay for police protection. The draft law also authorizes the police to demand that officers be hired as a condition for an event to take place.

The committee stopped debating the issue two weeks ago, saying that if the bill were passed in the Knesset, despite widespread opposition, it would mark "a creeping privatization of the police." Such a law would also provide the rich with police protection not provided to the poor.

Several sources said yesterday the debate is being renewed because Public Security Minister Avi Dichter (Kadima) pressured committee chairman MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor).

Dichter: No pressure exerted

Pines-Paz confirmed that Dichter asked for the debate to be renewed, but said he doesn't consider the request to be a form of pressure or otherwise problematic. Dichter's office also rejected accusations that pressure was exerted, but said it hopes to convince the committee of the rightness of its arguments in favor of the bill.

An earlier temporary law allowed public institutions to hire police, but the law expired at the end of the month and has not been renewed.

The finance and interior ministries, courts administration and Knesset legal adviser Nurit Elstein all oppose the bill. "I don't see how it's possible to toe the same line as in the past," Elstein told the High Court of Justice this week.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has submitted a position paper to the committee expressing vehement opposition to the bill, saying that it "allows the allocation of policing resources primarily to the moneyed who pay for themselves alone."

An ACRI representative was concerned yesterday that Pines-Paz may have reversed his opposition to the bill. However, Pines-Paz said that while he acceded to Dichter's request to debate the bill, he has given no assurances regarding the outcome of the debate.