Israel Says It Doesn't Have Drone Use Procedures, Adds That Revealing Them Is Security Risk

In response to a petition demanding exposure of procedures on drone use in West Bank and Gaza, state says that outing the procedures, which don't exist, would harm state security.

An Israeli soldier with a Sky Rider drone, 2011.
IDF Spokesperson's Unit

In response to a Supreme Court petition, the state said that there are no procedures governing the use of drone aircraft in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and therefore the petition requesting the public disclosure of the procedures should be denied. On the other hand, in its response the state also relied on an internal professional opinion that the Israel Defense Forces should not respond to the request due to concerns state security.

In October, the IDF rejected a freedom of information request by human rights activists to disclose the army's internal rules governing the use of drones. The request, filed by Attorney Itai Mack, was examined by the IDF and the Defense Ministry. The head of the IDF's information security department issued an opinion stating that the request could not be responded to out of concern of harming information security. As a result, Lt. Col. Limor Gross Weisbuch, who is the director of freedom of information at the IDF, decided to reject the request.

As a result of the rejection, Attorney Mack filed a petition with the administration affairs court, requesting information regarding the procedures governing drone actions in the West Bank be made public. The petitioners stressed that they're not seeking operational details or data on usage of drones, but merely the procedures regulating the legal boundaries of their use. "Only the exposure of the procedures will allow a public and legal knowledgeable debate in Israel on the legality, benefit, legitimacy and morality of using drones," the petitions reads.

The state's response, written by Attorney Gil Bilevsky of the Tel Aviv Attorney's Office, claims that on the one hand revealing said information poses a risk to state security, foreign relations and public security, and so the petition must be rejected. On the other hand, the response states that no such procedures exist. 

The state acknowledged the contradiction posed by the two arguments, but said that it could be explicated to the judge alone. 

The state added that though no such procedures exist, that doesn’t mean the IDF "does or does not make use of drones, nor does it mean that the IDF acts without procedures."