Contentious Anti-terror Bill Advances to Final Stage in Knesset

Committee approves bill with 10-2 majority; Meretz MK: 'Now any Arab can be deemed a terrorist.'

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Olivier Fitoussi

A new anti-terror bill that would greatly expand the state’s powers and redefine what constitutes a terror organization advanced to its final stages in the Knesset on Monday.

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved, by a 10-2 majority, the bill for its second and third readings in the Knesset. The panel had previously met for 30 sessions, rejecting all 150 objections to the bill. The bill will become law if passed after the third reading.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is promoting the bill, at the urging of the Shin Bet security service and the defense establishment. Two opposition parties, Zionist Union and Yesh Atid, have already committed to supporting the bill when it reaches MKs in a few weeks.

The new law would impose stricter sentences for terrorist activities and assisting them. It also defines new types of terrorist activity – such as expressing identification with a terrorist organization; incitement to commit terror; and nonprevention of terror acts.

The new law would include various measures that were previously part of the British Mandate Emergency Measures Act (1945). These include administrative detention and travel restrictions forbidding people from leaving the country.

Shaked told committee members, “This is a very important bill that will give security and enforcement agencies tools to combat terror, while protecting human rights. The government and Knesset will continue to lead global efforts against terror.”

Committee chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi) called the bill “exemplary.” He added that “the law gives security agencies the required power, but maintains a delicate balance so that this power is restrained and used only when necessary.”

MK Esawi Freige (Meretz) attacked the proposed law, calling it “ultranationalist legislation applying to Arabs, with civil legislation applying to Jews. Now any Arab can be deemed a terrorist. A stone-throwing Arab will become a terrorist, while a stone-throwing ultra-Orthodox Jew will not.”

MK Osama Saadia (Joint List) said his party believes “there’s an occupation, recognized by international law. People have a right to resist. The new law embraces the infamous Emergency Rules and hampers freedom of expression and organization.”

The bill proposes that a detainee can be held for 48 hours before being brought before a judge or seeing their attorney. The law will also permit the security service to conduct computer surveillance of anyone suspected of involvement in terrorist activity, subject to approval by the prime minister. The law also proposes taking money and property of people and organizations suspected of terror-related violations. The law will apply only within Israel, not the occupied territories.

The law would oblige the justice minister to give an annual report to the Knesset constitution panel, detailing how the law was implemented, and the number of prosecutions filed for identifying with a terror organization or for incitement.