Knesset Approves Amnesty Bill for Nonviolent Gaza Pullout Protesters

Amnesty bill passes in first reading; applies to 400 of the 482 criminal cases linked to Gaza disengagement.

The Knesset approved a piece of legislation in the first reading on Tuesday granting amnesty to protesters of the Gaza disengagement.

The law applies to 400 of the 482 criminal cases that were opened in the period before and during the evacuation of Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank in 2005.

The parliament passed two bills which in effect halt all legal proceedings against disengagement offenders and expunge the criminal records of those arrested. The legislation was submitted by Likud MK Reuven Rivlin and National Union MK Eli Gabbay along with a third of all MKs. The house approved the bill in a preliminary reading in July 2007.

The law stipulates that any sentences handed down in court against anyone convicted of a crime whose motive was to thwart the disengagement plan be promptly suspended. In addition, legal proceedings against anyone who was indicted would also be stopped. The law applies primarily to criminal offenses in which there was no risk of loss of life.

The amnesty will not apply to those cases where criminal offenses involving the use of explosives, serious acts of violence, and repeat offenders are involved.

Right-wing MKs erupted after MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) made a remark they interpreted as comparing Israel's right to the Nazis. Speaking about a bill to pardon people charged with crimes for protesting the disengagement, Gal-On said: "The Israeli Knesset should learn a lesson from the collapse of the Weimar Republic. I would remind you that democracy in Germany collapsed because it allowed the German right to exploit it."

In response, MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said Gal-On was suffering from a "serious psychiatric illness," while MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) declared: "You've gone mad. You've crossed every red line." Gal-On said she had not intended to compare the right to the Nazis.