Israel Set to Soften Controversial Stop-and-frisk Bill

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Israeli security forces frisk a man in Jerusalem, October 2015.
Israeli security forces frisk a man in Jerusalem, October 2015.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

A Knesset committee is set to discuss a softened version of the controversial stop-and-frisk bill Wednesday. The revised bill will still let police officers conduct bodily searches where terrorist activity is feared, but there are more restrictions in other areas.

The justification given for the proposed new law, which was initially submitted by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and approved by ministers last October, is to aid in preventing terror attacks.

In the revised version, to be debated by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, a clause has been removed that would allow the police to declare the areas around nightclubs, bars and pool halls, etc, as spaces where it is permissible to search anyone, even if they are not suspected of committing a crime.

Instead, the justification for conducting such searches would be expanded to include bullying behavior in public areas, including making verbal insults or threats, and other behavior that might intimidate or frighten others and deter the public from using the space. In the event of such behavior, the police will be allowed to search a person anytime, anywhere.

The new version still allows frisking, even without reasonable suspicion, due to a terror threat. In cases where terrorist activity is feared, the commander of the local police district will be able to define various areas where officers are allowed to carry out such searches for security needs. The Public Security Ministry interprets the law as meaning that a very large area, such as the entire city of Jerusalem, could be declared an area where searches are allowed, even without reasonable suspicion.

The Knesset committee has proposed that the law be enacted as an emergency order that would be valid for two years, after which time it would need to be resubmitted and approved again.

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