Israel May Tone Down Emergency Laws Drafted Ahead of Palestinian Move at UN

Faced with harsh criticism, government agencies to scrutinize emergency measures, rethinking more controversial changes.

Senior law enforcement officials will meet this week to discuss plans formulated by the Public Security Ministry ahead of possible disturbances following the upcoming Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations on Friday.

Deputies to the attorney general, senior officials in the State Prosecutor's Office, the Public Security Ministry and the Israel Police are to scrutinize the plans, which were formulated by the ministry with the assistance of the police's Investigations Division. The plans are expected to be mitigated following harsh criticism of them. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein would then determine whether the plans would be accepted in full or whether their more controversial elements would be changed, the Justice Ministry said Sunday.

Israeli police forces near Joseph's Tomb

Among the emergency regulations under consideration are provisions that would allow detainees to be held for 48 hours rather than 24 before appearing in court, and their first meeting with legal counsel could also be delayed. Also under consideration is the use of force to detain an individual - a measure that is currently permitted only after an actual arrest is made.

Police would also be able to wait 24 hours before informing detainees' family members that they have been taken into custody. The current rule is that a detainee's family must be informed "as soon as possible."

Regulations for adults would make no distinction between people detained for involvement in violent protests and suspects in other criminal acts. However, such distinctions would be made for minors.

"The attorney general should pound on his desk and not let these emergency regulations go forward. Anyone concerned over a separation of governmental powers and the special place of the Knesset as the elected representative of the people should vehemently oppose this blow to its authority," Prof. Mordachai Kremnitzer, vice-president of research at the Israel Democracy Institute, said Sunday.

Kremnitzer said the idea of emergency regulations once again revealed that although Israel was in a constant state of emergency, no means had been found to deal with the legislation of emergency regulations. "This decision must be made by the Knesset through regular legislation," he said. "The public, by means of its representatives, must decide with regard to the tension between security and freedom, and no other body."

Prof. Kenneth Mann, founder of the Public Defender's Office and an expert in criminal law, said Sunday: "Possible disturbances of the peace have been discussed for months. The matter should have been presented to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee for a review of the amendments. Changing legislation through emergency regulations is the easy way out," he said.

The Justice Ministry said Sunday that the Public Security Ministry had prepared several alternatives to deal with disturbances, including emergency regulations, if they were found necessary.