Buses Finally Permitted to Go to Netivot

Yuval Yoaz
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Yuval Yoaz

Senior Justice Ministry officials were displeased with yesterday's police decision to initially block buses that carried protesters from throughout the country to Netivot.

Following afternoon consultations among various law-enforcement arms, the police decided to be more lenient, and allowed most of the demonstrators to leave for last night's march, while agreeing to hold back some of the protesters.

Police and Justice Ministry discussions over the issue began at the end of last week. The police wanted to establish whether they had the right to stop the buses from departing. Ministry officials referred police to an expert opinion of a decade ago, when the right-wing Zu Artzenu movement tried to impose a "siege" on Jerusalem. At the time, the ministry averred that the police were obliged to prevent a crime, and if they have clear evidence that the buses' passengers intend to commit a crime, they can prevent their departure. The ministry said the police has the means to implement this legal authority.

"When there's information that the bus will be transporting passengers who intend to participate in an illegal action, and there are clear reports that the demonstrators are planning to enter the Gaza Strip and attempt to prevent the disengagement, and in this way, to contravene both the closure order and instructions of the Evacuation-Compensation Law, we can hold back a bus even before it reaches its destination," the ministry said in a statement.

The law enforcers agreed that holding back the buses was not to prevent the demonstrators from going to Netivot, even though they did not have a permit, but to stop them from pushing their way into Gush Katif. Therefore, they decided to allow the buses to leave a little later than planned, on a gradual basis.

Other legal circles condemned the decision. "The attempt to prevent citizens from traveling from one town in Israel to another is not legal," the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) wrote in an urgent letter to Israel Police Chief Moshe Karadi. "It is a severe infringement of the right to freedom of movement."

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, associated with the Gush Katif settlers, said the decision was "reminiscent of murky totalitarian regimes."

On the other hand, Prof. Ruth Gabison, a Supreme Court candidate, said: "It is a complicated situation... If this had been a march that ended far from the border, there would be no justification for this, but if the police had a reasonable basis to expect that the result of gathering so many people would lead to a violent clash that could cause loss of control, then the police acted from the operational point of view in a responsible manner... The police are responsible both for the safety of the demonstrators and the security forces."

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