Israeli Opposition Fuming After Knesset Speaker Blocks Caucus Against Police Brutality

Speaker Yuli Edelstein says the current caucus working for police officers, prison-service employees and firefighters can do the job

Police confront Ethiopian Israelis during a demonstration against police brutality, 2015.
Ilan Assayag

Speaker Yuli Edelstein has refused a request to set up a Knesset caucus to collect complaints about police brutality and follow up on the investigations.

In a letter Thursday to MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz), the legislature’s secretariat said a caucus that already exists, the caucus for police officers, prison-service employees and firefighters, could address policy brutality.

Gilon, for his part, said it was unprecedented for the speaker to refuse to form a caucus at the request of several MKs “with a flimsy excuse, while ignoring an acute, urgent social problem.”

He said he and several MKs who had joined his initiative were extremely concerned about police brutality in Israel. He called on Edelstein to retract his decision and said he would appeal if necessary.

Gilon started enlisting MKs from all the parties a few weeks ago to form a caucus against police brutality, following a wave of arrests and alleged transgressions at recent protests.

“Police brutality has been causing harm to many segments of the population including the ultra-Orthodox, political activists, sports fans, transgender people, homeless people and Ethiopians,” he said in late May.

On Thursday, Gilon was surprised to receive the letter from the Knesset secretariat saying Edelstein had denied the request. The speaker advised Gilon to join the current caucus.

Gilon was especially angry over Edelstein’s reasoning, because the existing caucus’ goals are the exact opposite of the group he wanted to set up.

Gilon’s initiative was prompted by the detention of about 20 demonstrators in late May at a protest in Petah Tikva. He noted that the police had arrived with a bus intended for detainees.