Israeli Government Postpones Bill to Deport Terrorists’ Families

Mew law would almost certainly face High Court scrutiny and might well be overturned.

Israeli soldiers sit in a bus as they leave the scene of a truck-ramming attack in Jerusalem, January 8, 2017.
RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS

The governing coalition on Sunday postponed by three months consideration of a private member’s bill to facilitate the expulsion of terrorists’ families, fearing that it could weaken existing powers in this regard.

The ostensible purpose of the delay is to allow Interior Minister Arye Dery to look into submitting a similar government bill. But sources in the coalition said they expected the legislative initiative would ultimately be abandoned.

Current law enables the interior minister to strip noncitizen terrorists or their families of their Israeli residency rights. A parallel military order allows the army’s Civil Administration to expel terrorists or their families from Israeli-controlled to Palestinian-Authority-controlled areas of the West Bank.

But coalition sources explained that this is possible largely because the law granting the minister this power was enacted prior to the 1992 Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty. Since the Basic Law contains a grandfather clause, protecting preexisting legislation from judicial review, the High Court of Justice can’t overturn the existing law on the grounds that it contradicts the Basic Law, as it could with any legislation passed after 1992.

But a new law would almost certainly face High Court scrutiny and might well be overturned.

The current bill has 16 sponsors, including Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud), Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and two former heads of the Shin Bet security service, MKs Jacob Perry (Yesh Atid) and Avi Dichter (Likud). Bitan decided to push the bill because he was seeking new tools with which to deter terrorists, especially the perpetrators of lone-wolf attacks, which are more difficult for the security services to prevent.

The bill would allow any person who committed an act of terror, or any relatives who “participated in committing the act by knowing about, abetting, encouraging or supporting the act before, during or after its commission,” to be deported to the PA. Such a person could be deported even without having been convicted, though he or she would have the right to argue against the expulsion at a hearing.

In October, the coalition began to put forward a separate, government bill that would greatly expand the defense minister’s authority to detain Israeli citizens suspected of involvement in terror without trial or issue restraining orders against them. This bill, which was passed in its first reading in the Knesset and sent back to committee for changes prior to its second and third readings, would grant the minister far broader and more vaguely defined powers than he has today.

Among other provisions, this bill would allow the minister to impose restrictions on a person’s occupation or place of employment, forbid him to enter or leave certain parts of the country, bar him from leaving the country, prevent him from making contact with certain individuals, or impose “any other order or restriction required for reasons of national security or the public safety.”

Current law, in contrast, allows the minister to issue a much narrower range of restrictive orders.

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is slated to start discussing this bill next week.